Review by Brad Walseth
The legend of Frank Catalano began when as a 17 year old saxophone prodigy he talked his mother into taking him to Chicago jazz club Andy's. When the featured performer that night - organist Charles Earland - had his sax player fail to show, the teenager filled in and blew the crowd and the veteran musican away - thus beginning a career that has exploded and shows no signs of slowing down. Catalano was asked to join Earland's band, and later toured with Louie Bellson, Tito Puente and Tony Bennett. The talented young artist recorded three albums for Delmark while attending DePaul, played with numerous heavy hitters in the pop and jazz worlds, and was voted Rising Star in Downbeat's Critic's Poll. Now in his late twenties, the musician is a top sessions artist (J-Lo, Destiny's Child, John Legend, Maurice Joshua) and one of the top live acts in Chicago - drawing huge crowds wherever he plays. Making his incredible success even more astounding is the fact he nearly lost a finger in an accident in his younger days.
On his latest - "Mighty Burner" - Catalano pays tribute to the artist who gave him his first break - Charles Earland. Like the organist's style of music, the tunes are stright forward good-time grooves, boogie-woogie and blues recorded live at the Green Mill and Edgewater Lounge. On these crowd-pleasing originals, Catalano is backed by pianist Vijay Tellis-Nayak, Bassist Matt Thompson, and drummer Robert Gay (keybordist Greg Spero sits in on track 5, while bassist Shawn Sommer appears on the studio-produced Maurice Joshua mix of the song "Mighty Burner" that ends the recording). The overall sound is raw - as to be expected from a live recording, and the songs flow one to the next with no real surprises, but it succeeds in capturing much of the fun of a live Catalano gig in all its intensity.
The band is solid in their support, but it is the young tenor saxman who thrills and delights the crowd and the listener as he rips and burns through the set list. Catalano is a prodigious soloist and he whoops and wails nearly non-stop throughout entire songs like "Love Bugaloo, "God's Love for Music" and "Tuna Town" in a way you have to hear to believe. As creative as he is energetic, this is a young player with attitude and chops enough to burn down the house for an entire album. It is a nearly Herculean effort and the fact that his soloing remains fresh and exciting throughout is indicative of the immensity of his talent. Not a recording recommended for those seeking quieter and more contemplative pusuits, this is rip-roaring, hell-raising, stand back and get out of the way flat-out burning. And quite popular as evidenced by his standing room only shows and the fact that this album opened up at #11 on the Billboard chart. The perfect party album for those inclined; when an album is as fun as this one is all I can say is - "Burn, Baby burn!"