If you enjoy contemporary straight-ahead jazz, this record is sure to please. Penman is a bassist from New Zealand who relocated to New York in 1995, and this is his second release on Barcelona's Fresh Sound New Talent Records (the first, The Unquiet, was released in 2002). The record not only features Penman's bass, but his pen as well, since all of the tunes are his original compositions. Penman's playing and composing chops are considerable; he is the bassist for the SFJazz Collective, an 8-piece composer's group that includes luminaries such as Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Stefon Harris, and Robin Eubanks.
Overall, Catch of the Day has a moody, modal tone; it's not happy-go-lucky bebop, with the possible exception of the last cut, "Nectarous Master," which the liner notes characterizes accurately as a "romp." The other tunes are much more contemplative, even sorrowful, such as "Channels" and "Frosted;" the latter was written as an elegy for Penman's grandfather. "Hot Yoga" is a highlight, featuring some extended bass solos by Penman and marvelous, intricate drum work by Eric Harland.
Penman works with some very talented sidemen on this release. The tenor and soprano saxophone duties are held down by Seamus Blake, a Canadian who settled in New York in 1992 and who has toured with John Scofield as well as doing regular gigs with the Mingus Big Band. The piano & keyboards chair is occupied by Aaron Parks, a prodigious young talent who began studying at the Manhattan School of Music at age 16, and was invited to join Terence Blanchard's band just after he turned 18. Harland completes the quartet on drums; he began playing professionally at age 15, was Betty Carter's drummer until her death in 1998, and also works with Penman as the drummer for the SFJazz Collective.
Catch of the Day's record label, Fresh Sound New Talent, is an apt description for this recording; the sound is indeed fresh, and the talent, while not exactly new to jazz, does draw from the impressive pool of up-and-coming jazz artists.