Review by Brad Walseth
Houston-born tenor man Paul Carr brought his big bold Texas tenor sound with him when he moved to Washington D.C., where he studied at Howard University and became active in the community's vibrant jazz scene as a performer and educator (he founded the Jazz Academy of Music). On this new outing, Carr visits the songbook of the late, great Joe Henderson, who unfairly has been somewhat overlooked among the famous tenors in jazz. Carr doesn’t attempt to sound like Henderson, but rather gives his own interpretations of some or Henderson’s tunes, as well as two originals and three covers.
On this satisfying release, Carr has assembled an exceptional group, including drummer Lewis Nash, pianist Mulgrew Miller, trumpeter Terell Stafford and bassist Michael Bowie. All the players are in sync, burning through up=tempo numbers like the original title track, Henderson's "Our Thing," and "Granted" and Cole Porter's "Night and Day." Mid-tempo numbers like Henderson's "Mamacita" and Carr's "Classroom Agenda" swing brightly, while Carr's take on the lovely "Black Narcisus" is memorable. Henderson's "Y' Todavia LaQuiero" is a true gem, featuring a killer solo intro, and D.C. pianist Louis Scheer's "Zsa Zsa" is a welcome addition as well. In the case of the latter, I actually ran across the original recording by the D.C.=based group "Warm Valley" featuring Joe Henderson in a cut-out bin several years ago and have treasured it ever since. Good to hear a new take on this great composition.
This recording is a pure joy for lovers of hard bop and I suspect it will be difficult to find many releases this year that feature such excellent playing. Miller is a treat as always on the piano with his McCoy meets Oscar piano work, while Stafford shreds on the trumpet. The rhythm section is solid and exciting, and Carr himself is a real find. His style merges the best of the Texas tradition with an east coast flavor in an engaging mix that will please jazz fans. He ends the album with a delicious solo take on Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" - an appropriate choice for an emerging tenor star.