Project A

Project A

by Joel Frahm


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Project A

Tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and keyboardist Bruce Katz pay instrumental tribute to the rhythm & blues tunes of pop icon Aretha Franklin in a manner that is removed from stock arrangements or rote interpretations. Frahm and Katz tend to change things up a bit on the majority of these well-chosen selections, which bear only a minimal resemblance to the powerful songs of Sister 'Re. That Frahm's modernistic personal style is sublimated, or that Katz doesn't groove hard and strong, is not the issue. What is at hand makes this group stand alone as a unit dedicated to this music of their youth, leaving karaoke or copycat charts to much less-talented musicians, as they bring a different heartfelt aesthetic to these proceedings. Electric guitarist Chris Vitarello is a major factor adding new voicings, while Franklin's electric bass guitarist Jerry Jemmott makes his funky presence felt on five of these selections. The always exemplary and talented Katz rotates on piano, Hammond B-3, and Wurlitzer, while a two-man horn section is added on three tracks. Of the obvious modifications, "Maybe I'm A Fool" is a sprightly waltz with Katz on piano in more an N.Y.C. street style, while the famous "Rock Steady" is much lighter on its feet than the original, and does not necessarily "get down" with dual bass, drums, and electric pianos. Completely off the charts, Vitarello's slide guitar à la Duane Allman or Derek Trucks moves in secular-to-New Orleans-shuffle modes during "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Frahm's influences cum King Curtis via Michael Brecker clearly come to the surface on the choogling shuffle "Love the One You're With," but the churchy organ of Katz spurs a light or loping funk and some clockwork rhythms for "Spirit in the Dark" where the tenor saxophonist adopts a spiritual stance akin to John Coltrane. A very slow, urban blues accented by Vitarello and the horns identifies "It Ain't Fair," similar to the Art Blakey/Bobby Timmons evergreen "Moanin'," while back to New Orleans, the upbeat, funky pace of "Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go" might have been a better first number than the last selection. Unfortunately, the opener "The House That Jack Built" is the one track that really falls flat, a clearly simplified cover that belies the creative nature of these musicians. Overall this recording expresses a good time had by all, clearly a labor of love, and brings Franklin's Detroit gospel to star power rhythm & blues music forward in a different light. While not likely to shake and quake booties or turn dance music into an intellectual thesis, Frahm and Katz achieve a balance somewhere in the middle that should be pleasing to many younger jazz and older non-jazz fans.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/25/2009
Label: Anzic Records
UPC: 0896434001283
catalogNumber: 6101
Rank: 101137

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joel Frahm   Primary Artist,Tenor Saxophone
Bruce Katz   Piano,Hammond Organ,Wurlitzer,Hammond B3
Marty Ballou   Acoustic Bass
Lorne Entress   Drums
Jay Collins   Baritone Saxophone
Jerry Jemmott   Electric Bass
Kenny Rampton   Trumpet
Ralph Rosen   Drums
Chris Vitarello   Guitar

Technical Credits

Aretha Franklin   Composer
Steve Stills   Composer
Bruce Katz   Producer,Liner Notes
Ahmet Ertegun   Composer
James Farber   Engineer
Ronald Dean Miller   Composer
Joseph Scriven   Composer
Charles C. Converse   Composer
Joel Frahm   Producer,Liner Notes
Betty Nelson   Composer
Paul Barry   Composer
Anat Cohen   Executive Producer
Oded Lev-Ari   Executive Producer

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