Review: Carl Bartlett, Jr. “Hopeful”

Carl Bartlett, Jr. “Hopeful”

01 Dec, 2010 Gary Brown

Carl Bartlett Jr.’s Hopeful is a treat for anyone who enjoys the smoke-filled, traditional, and contemporary style of Jazz.  Although the first six tracks on Hopeful are original works, they resonate with the eloquence and spirit of John Coltrane.  With the assistance of his band, including Sharp Radway on piano, Eric Lemon on bass, Emanuel Harrold on drums, Charles Bartlett on trumpet, and Ron Jackson on guitar, Bartlett, Jr. and crew deliver a well-balanced blueprint for success.

The first and arguably finest track of the group, “Hopeful, touts Carl’s exuberant yet original alto saxophone play.  Reminiscent of a backdrop to a film-noir soundtrack, “Hopeful” displays the strength and confidence of an accomplished artist.  The song is complete, as a tour-de-force alto saxophone solo highlights Carl’s skilled range and sensitivity in his approach to Jazz. Next, “Fidgety Season” begins as an upbeat and well-orchestrated track complete with an apt piano introduction that embraces the depth of Carl’s jazz ensemble. “Fidgety Season” showcases a traditional jazz tune filled with lively piano and drum solos culminated by Carl’s vibrant alto leads throughout.

Another masterwork created by Bartlett, Jr. and Co. is “Julie B,” which gracefully intones the deep emotional moods of the eight song collaboration. “Julie B” shines through as an extended but well-paced melody of the set on which the magnificence continues as the jazz ensemble maintains its intensity and keen organization of tracks. The calm, serene atmosphere highlights Eric Lemon’s crafty bass talents, allowing the song to shine while accentuating Carl’s alto virtuoso.  The next track, “Quantum Leaps and Bounds,” opens like a mood-filled emotional piece but quickly cascades and leaps into an upbeat montage of piano, bass, drum, and Ron Jackson’s dazzling guitar lead.  With hints of George Benson and Wes Montgomery, it offers the set an acoustic flavor drenched in rich tone, balance, and artistic creativity.  The intense guitar resonance is accompanied halfway by Carl’s powerful saxophone flair, culminating into a fusion of elegance and grace.

“Release” continues the second half of the set as a mellow bass-filled song of beauty.  Carl’s lead again is reminiscent of Coltrane’s strength in tone and character.  “Seven Up” provides a skillful performance featuring Carl’s cheerful saxophone intro, Sharp Radway’s well-paced piano lead, and Emanuel Harrold’s enticing drum solos.  The sharp-edged collaboration here is undoubtedly the most optimistic tune of the entire set. The song also has the elegance the 1950’s and 1960’s era where jazz music and ballrooms would swing with dancing charm.  “It Could Happen to You” captures Charles Bartlett’s brilliance on trumpet as the song sways in both style and poise throughout. The final track of the group, “I Love Lucy,” starts like a darkly mesmerizing jazz piece that gradually leaps into the fervent theme song of the show many have come to love.  “I Love Lucy” brings Carl Bartlett, Jr.’s group full circle as the tune picks up tempo and maintains its stylishness saxophone riffs that only Carl can provide, and is a befitting final piece to an excellent portrait of Carl Bartlett, Jr. and his group of gifted jazz performers.

Carl Bartlett Jr.’s Hopeful brings together a very smooth mix of traditional, contemporary, and enthusiastic jazz.  The 8-track set never fails in its delivery of skillfully composed songs that represent today’s contemporary jazz scene while not forgetting the past. Carl Bartlett, Jr. and his band have given radio and home listeners another reason to enjoy the pure pleasures of jazz.

Review by Gary Brown
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)