Von Freeman and Frank Catalano: You Talkin' to Me?
If you close your eyes and imagine the clinking of glasses and the clamor of the audience in the background, this CD might easily transport you to any one of many memorable nights at Chicago's New Apartment Lounge, where for years, tenor great Von Freeman has been conducting his legendary open-door jam sessions. And yet, this set of swaggering blues, time-worn standards and session-worthy originals were recorded in a relatively staid setting at Chicago's Riverside Studios in August of 1999.
It's interesting to note that the occasion of this recording has a history dating back to a session some nine years ago when tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, all of thirteen years old at the time, first introduced himself and his horn at one of Freeman's jam sessions. On this recording date, he reveals a maturity belying his twenty-one years and demonstrates a most impressive ability hold his own with Chicago's premier tenor virtuoso. Here, with a rhythm section as solidly Chicagoan as pianist Larry Novak, drummer Joel Spencer, bassist Larry Kohut; and a playlist of tunes that could well have been decided upon on the spur of the moment, this CD has the authentic feel of a front row seat on a memorable night when two of this city's top tenor men were at the top of their form.
Listen to the way Freeman and Catalano, though generations apart in age and experience, play to inspire; mirroring and complimenting each other throughout. Despite a similar intensity in their approach, even a casual listening reveals the striking contrast in style and tone between these two players. Compare Catalano's laid-back attack and often fourths-based Coltrane-esque harmonics to Freeman's more lyrical approach, his oh-so-exquisite pinched tone and occasional Texas-style swagger. Their collaboration on Reverse Blues, the close-the-bar blues that ends the session, is a perfect study of their similar approach and divergent styles.
Worthy of special note is Larry Novak's superb piano work. His sparkling solos and sensitive comping lend the perfect shape and balance to this session's mostly no-holds-barred performances.—Dennis Sieja
Available on Delmark Records, 4121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, Il 60618. 800-684-3480 or online at www.delmark.com