Carol Sudhalter’s Swinging Set

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LIVE AT SAINT PETER’S CHURCH / DAMERON: On a Misty Night. GOLSON: Park Avenue Petite. EVANS: Time Remembered. MOBLEY: Funk in Deep Freeze. SUDHALTER: Colin Blues.* ROLLINS: Vales Hot. POLADIAN: Fun in the Alley. REDMAN-RAZAF: Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You? JOBIM: Luiza / Carol Sudhalter, bar-sax/fl/*voc; Patrick Poladian, pno; Kevin Hailey, bs; Mike Campenni, dm / Alfa Projects AFPCD 194

Carol Sudhalter is a veteran jazz musician who, in addition to the baritone sax and flute she plays on this album, also occasionally plays tenor saxophone. She has made several albums in the past, and this is her latest, playing at a “Saint Peter’s Church” in some undisclosed city (Los Angeles? Waldorf, MD? Woodward, OK?).

After auditioning and being utterly bored by dozens of “soft jazz” CDs over the past two years, it’s an unalloyed pleasure to hear a straightahead set of jazz standards and originals. Sudhalter’s style on the baritone is more laid-back than, say, Pepper Adams or Gerry Mulligan, but still swinging, with a full tone and good musical ideas. I was more than delighted to hear her quartet open up with On a Misty Night by Tadd Dameron, in my view one of the most underrated jazz composers of his time (the 1940s and very early ‘50s…sadly, he burned himself out early on heroin), followed in turn by a Benny Golson piece, Park Avenue Petite. Bassist Kevin Hailey and drummer Mike Campenni make up a fine, loosely swinging rhythm section; the latter’s solo in the first piece is an indication of just how good he is. Pianist Patrick Poladian plays competently.

The sonics are very “roomy,” with lots of natural reverb around the instruments which somewhat dulls their impact, but you still get a “you-are-there” feeling. Sudhalter’s baritone sax is the most clearly-recorded instrument of the four, with Campenni’s bass in second place. On Bill Evans’ Time Remembered, Sudhalter switches to flute. To be honest, however, I found her flute playing somewhat one-dimensional, with little inflection or change in dynamics, though it is a nice performance. Happily, Hank Mobley’s Funk in Deep Freeze returns us to her bari sax and swinging style, and on this track I felt that pianist Poladian was a bit more interesting.

Following this is an original by Sudhalter, Colin Blues, on which she sings a vocal. Sadly, this is so distantly miked that you can barely make out any words, but on this one her flute playing was more interesting. I was again happily surprised to hear her play Sonny Rollins’ Valse Hot, one of the last pieces recorded by the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet before Brownie’s untimely death in a car crash, and although her performance lacks a bit of the drive of the original she has her own things to say in it. Campenni has a nice drum solo on this one.

Poladian’s Fun in the Alley is a real swinger, with everyone sounding good on it and clearly having fun. Another surprise in this set is Don Redman’s old early-1930s tune Gee, Baby. Ain’t I Good to You, here performed as a showcase for Hailey’s bass. The set closes with a performance of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Luiza, which has another good flute performance by Sudhalter (recorded more clearly than her other flute pieces) and nice piano support from Poladian.

A very pleasant set with some excellent playing, mixed with some indifferent solos.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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