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CAROL SUDHALTER "Shades of Carol" Alfa

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Friday, May 12, 2006

CAROL SUDHALTER"Shades of Carol"Alfa

QUICK TO LIVE up to its billing, "Shades of Carol" presents saxophonist, flutist and bandleader Carol Sudhalter in a variety of settings, from duo and voice arrangements to a few big-band orchestrations saved for last. All told, there are four recording sessions from both sides of the Atlantic represented, and though the groups keep shifting in size, there are a few constants. In addition to playing with relaxed assurance, Sudhalter chooses the tunes wisely and keeps good company throughout.

A pair of sessions recorded in Italy yield treats, including a suitably dreamy recital of Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" and a vibrant quintet take on Cedar Walton's "Firm Roots," which features Sudhalter confidently doubling on tenor sax and flute. Speaking of firm roots, Sudhalter certainly has them. She favors a surefooted approach to swing and bop that occasionally suggests the influence of flutist Frank Wess, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and some old-school tenor players known for projecting a full, warm and soulful tone.

The large ensemble sessions featuring Sudhalter's Astoria Big Band suffer from tunnel-like sonics. Yet the group nevertheless manages to reveal its strengths, particularly when Sudhalter, on baritone sax, sets the mood for an Ellingtonian-tinged voyage on "On a Slow Boat to China." The big band's welcome and smartly arranged version of Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night" brings things to a close, but not before Sudhalter introduces two original tunes that complement the gems she has gathered here.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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