Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Carol Sudhalter Quartet Live at St. Peter's Church

Live at St. Peter's Church is such a perfect record for today's weather--cool, blustery and looking a bit like early spring. It has that sound of a small ensemble playing in a big church, drawing 2L Recordings' catalog into the discussion, all open and rich with the sound of wooden beams on high ceilings. Baritone sax player Carol Sudhalter has plenty of experience--this is her eleventh album, and she's not afraid to take risks. There's something light and full of air in her tone, a sound uncommon for baritone saxes, and it's that exact feeling of making it through another winter slightly stronger and slightly smarter that surrounds her approach. At the same time, she also plays the flute with an unusual amount of gravitas. It's as if she's coaxing her instruments to become something else for a night.

Sudhalter is joined by a stellar jazz trio (drummer Mike Campenni, bassist Kevin Hailey and pianist Patrick Poladian) that wanders into a more lush, ornate sound that weaves with precision. There is something so natural, in a sylvan sense, in this sound. It sounds like it's being recorded in a church most of the time, but when the ensemble grows more reticent the walls disappear and it sounds like you're listening to an outdoor performance. It's an effect that pulls you into the music, whether it is deliberate or not.

It's surprising just how much the space defines this album, and how it continually defines the mood. There are moments of peace in these performances that suggest other places in the world, such as in that forest or on a harbor cruise where everyone is dressed to the nines for the evening. You can hear the echoes moving through the trees or down the outdoor walkways. You get this vague sense that the weather that evening was pleasant and everyone was in a good mood. Scarves were worn.

Sudhalter is also featured on vocals for the first time in her career, on "Colin Blues." Much is made in the liner notes about her roll of the dice, but the performance is special because she's playing with that space again, using it in a passive way to outline the vast inner dimensions of the church. I think of 2L Recordings once again, and how they have built their reputation on this sort of attention to detail. They didn't invent recording music in a church, but they re-wrote the play book. Live at St. Peter's Church therefore becomes a rarity, a live recording of a jazz quartet filmed in a venue that's void of the obstacles you find in most nightclubs. It sounds great.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! You got to one of my goals...making the instrument reach out beyond its expected sound...especially the flute. Thank you!