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    Posted: 08 Jul 2024 at 2:33am





Coming July 29, 2024

PAUL CARLON - Blues For Vita cover

Saxophonist and composer PAUL CARLON has been lucky to be surrounded by talented, artistic women throughout his life. His mother was a visual artist who set up large canvases in a workspace she carved out for herself in their home. Her art and her work ethic were huge influences on the young musician. But his late sister, also a visual artist, and his wife, formerly an actor, also embody the artistic spirit that nurtures Carlon’s creativity.


Carlon is releasing BLUES FOR VITA, his sixth album as a leader. His previous albums have all been Latin-tinged and feature different band configurations. His albums include Tresillo (2017), La Rumba Is a Lovesome Thing: Tribute to Billy Strayhorn (2013), Roots Propaganda (2008), Other Tongues (2006), and Looking Up (1998). The Latin Jazz Network said, “A big man with an expressive face, Mr. Carlon espouses a tone much larger than himself, which is by turn gritty, rapturously lyrical, sparkling and luscious.”


BLUES FOR VITA features the Paul Carlon Quintet, comprising top New York players who have performed with a Who’s-Who of jazz and Latin jazz stars. The band includes EDDIE ALLEN (trumpet), HARVIE S (bass), HELIO ALVES (piano), and WILLIE MARTINEZ (drums).


Carlon comes from a musical as well as an artistic family. Two of his older siblings were string players, but Carlon was drawn to the saxophone and decided to follow his own path. Although he earned a degree in English Literature from Cornell University, he chose music as his career and moved to New York City after graduating. He quickly became part of the thriving 90's jazz scene, honing his craft at all-night cutting sessions at Small's Jazz Club.


Carlon’s playing and composing has been influenced by the greats who came before him. In particular, he cites Woody Shaw, who was known for revolutionizing the technical and harmonic language of modern jazz trumpet playing, and Gene Ammons, a bebop saxophonist who integrated blues and R&B in his music. But Carlon has also been very influenced by Afro-Caribbean music and has performed in various Latin jazz bands. 


Not long after arriving in New York, Carlon became a member of bassist Phil Bowler's band, Pocket Jungle. The band was popular in the 1990’s but stopped performing in 2002. After a 12-year hiatus, the band was reconstituted and recorded a well-received album, which included one of Carlon’s compositions. In the late 90s, Carlon began working with two Afro-Cuban jazz groups, Grupo los Santos and Cuban trombonist Juan Pablo Torres' quintet. He also performs and records with many other groups, including Bronx Conexion (a Latin jazz big band), The McCarron Brothers (a quartet that plays a blend of funk, fusion, and free jazz), Alex Ayala's Afro Puerto Rican Big Band, Schapiro 17 Jazz Orchestra, The Tony Romano Quartet, Earotica (led by bassist John Lang), Goussy Célestin's Ayiti Brass, and Nation Beat, for which he serves as the musical director.


BLUES FOR VITA comprises five originals by Carlon, two standards, and one off-the-beaten-track composition. Blues, R&B, bebop, and Latin jazz are clearly present in Carlon’s hip sax work. The album opens with “Dee Dot,” the most straight-ahead composition on the album with echoes of Art Blakey’s bands. Carlon composed the tune quickly at a rehearsal and just as quickly came up with the name when he scatted the melody for the band.


Other Carlon originals include “Colored Paper,” a tune with a driving Latin beat and an Eddie Harris vibe. He named the title track, “Blues for Vita,” for his wife, Lavita, whose image is beautifully rendered on the cover art. Composed with a blues form, the piano plays an ostinato that underpins Carlon’s and Allen’s solos.


“Unmute” was influenced by Woody Shaw’s driving music. Carlon derived the name from the many Zoom sessions he participated in during the pandemic lockdown. “Zooming into the Void,” the closing track and the last Carlon original on the album, was also named after his pandemic Zoom sessions. The tune is a bossa nova with a darker, moodier vibe.


The two standards on the album are “Never Will I Marry” and “It Never Entered My Mind.” Carlon’s approach to “Never Will I Marry” was inspired by the iconic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley version, but the band takes it in new directions with propulsive solos by Carlon and Alves. “It Never Entered My Mind” is a Latin-tinged, slow cha-cha with a menacing feel.


“Isabel the Liberator,” composed by Larry Willis, is rarely performed, and was notably recorded by Woody Shaw. It was also recorded by Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, one of Carlon’s favorites. Since no lead sheets existed, Carlon transcribed it by ear.


BLUES FOR VITA is a hip, Latin jazz-inflected album by one of the busiest and most inventive saxophonists on the New York jazz scene. Carlon’s playing is solid and soulful, and many of his compositions are bound to become standards for the jazz cognoscenti. 

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BLUES FOR VITA will be available digitally on selected platforms on July 29, 2024. Physical copies will be available at Bandcamp.







Edited by snobb - 08 Jul 2024 at 2:34am
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