CAROL SUDHALTER "Shades of Carol" Alfa

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.

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