The first release from Paul Carr as a leader in 13 years titled Just Noodlin’ is actually anything but. Carr is a hard-hitting, straight-ahead Texas tenor that has spent many years as a sideman on the DC scene and touring on four continents when not performing at the White House or the JFK Center for the Performing Arts. On this outing, Carr offers a mix of standards and his own compositions played with an intriguingly fresh and expansive post-bop sound. Featuring renowned trumpeter Terell Stafford and former Donald Harrison sideman, Andrew Adair on piano, this group absolutely gives no quarter as they progress from the initial Carr composition that serves as the title track through Reuben Brown and Hank Mobley tunes to a hard-grooving Latin version of Burt Bacharach’s "Alfie" and beyond.
As might be expected from one with his background, Carr moves with ease between tenor and soprano over driving rhythm sections provided by Michael Bowie or Gavin Fallow on bass and Harold Summey or Steve Williams on drums. Perhaps Carr’s facility on his chosen instrument is most noticeable on the Gershwin standard "But Not for Me," a Coltrane favorite that might scare away a lesser player. Carr approaches the tune fearlessly and blows several spiraling choruses that, while somewhat reminiscent of Trane, (is this meant as a tribute? could it be otherwise?), are also clearly expressive of a confidently individual and recognizable style. The CD winds down to a freely blown rendition of "If I Can Help Somebody" that calls to mind the big sound of some of Albert Ayler’s gospel renderings while maintaining a down-home feel and providing a touching close to this fine effort.
Also present here are Bob Butta and Vince Evans who contribute solid piano backing on tracks absent Adair’s stylings. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t run across Carr’s explosive sound before, but I certainly intend to in the future. Fans of other serious hard hitters (think Terence Blanchard) will find themselves at home here although chances are, if you don’t like this CD, you are probably not a jazz fan. I can’t recommend it highly enough.