Live at Saint Peter’s Church
It’s not often that you find a baritone saxophonist/flutist as a band leader. Sure, Gerry Mulligan comes to mind but who else? Carol Sudhalter has proven herself to be one of jazz’s top baritone saxophonist, a fine flutist and originally a tenor soloist, having been a bandleader on ten albums. Here she also sings for the first time on record for this live recording with a tight quartet featuring: Patrick Poladian (piano), Kevin Hailey (upright bass) and Mike Campenni (drums).
Consider this quote from W. Royal Stokes, author of Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers, Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson, and other books on jazz plus the trilogy Backwards Over. “A by-product of the current redressing of discrimination against women in government, the military, education, the professions, the arts, and elsewhere has been the realization throughout the jazz world that there are within its ranks countless and too-long-ignored female instrumentalist who are every bit as talented as their male counterparts. Saxophonist, flutist, big band and combo leader, producer, and educator Carol Sudhalter has since the early 1970s been a leader, a pioneer really, in advancing the cause of women in jazz with her efforts to bring them to front and center in the performance arena.”
The music is remarkably warm for a live setting, mostly straight ahead, with some contemporary flourishes and a few left turns. The quartet begins with Carol on baritone for a tender rendering of the classic Tadd Dameron tune, “On A Misty Night,” with each member briefly soloing with Poladian’s piano, as he is throughout, especially elegant. Benny Golson’s ballad “Park Avenue Petite” follows as Sudhalter and Hailey take melodic solos that build on the melancholy vibe. The leader switches to flute for the mid-tempo Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” and swings hard on her baritone for Hank Mobley’s “Funk In Deep Freeze” with the latter also including an excellent solo by pianist Poladian and a fine drum chorus from Campenni.
This leads to the centerpiece of the album and its only original. “Colin Blues” is Carol Sudhalter’s debut vocal. Her singing is quite effective as she pays tribute to one of her students. However, perhaps she was just slightly reticent, or we could toss it up to the live mixing, that her voice isn’t a bit more prominent, certainly when compared to her flute solo. Sonny Rollins’ charming jazz waltz “Valse Hot” follows as the album’s longest track at over seven minutes. Carol’s on baritone and each musician takes a commendable solo. Carol gets a rarely heard, beautiful, almost tenor-like tone from the baritone sax. Patrick Poladian penned the up-tempo “Fun In The Alley,” where Carol returns to flute. Here Poladian really lets loose, moving from his usual warm, restrained playing to a lively, percussive piano style that inspires the leader to soar on her flute solo too. Bassist Hailey gets his turn on the standard blues “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” as the leader lays out. The set closes with Carol’s lovely flute on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Luiza,” matching the sophisticated tone of the opener.
Growing up in a musical family that had a father who played alto sax in the New England area and two musical brothers (including trumpeter and author Richard Sudhalter), Carol Sudhalter started on the flute while in college. She studied with Ran Blake and Phil Wilson at the New England Conservatory Of Music, took up the baritone sax, and in 1978 moved to New York. She played with the first all-female Latin band (Latin Fever), founded the Astoria Big Band (which has now been active for 33 years) and has worked with such notables as Etta Jones, Chico Freeman, Jimmy McGriff, Sarah McLawler, Henry Butler, Jimmy Cobb and Jason Marsalis in addition to leading her own groups.
Carol Sudhalter has performed in nearly every significant New York jazz club, at quite a few festivals, and regularly tours Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. She has led over ten albums of her own, primarily for the AlfaMusic and Carolina labels. She has several March dates in and around NYC. Visit www.sudhalter.com
- Jim Hynes