Whenever someone mentions the word noodlin’, the ultimate question is: "Exactly, what is being referred to when someone says I’m just noodlin’." Depending upon what region of the country you are living in, noodlin’ can mean many things. For one, inhabitants living in the Deep South where catfish are plentiful, people know noodlin’ to mean swimming along the banks of rivers, swamps and bayous fishing bare handed for sport, without the use of a pole or net. But in its most meaningful definition, the word best describes: "improvising on an instrument in an informal or desultory manner." The latter idea is exactly what saxophonist Paul Carr had in mind when he recorded his latest CD entitled Just Noodlin’ on the Paul Carr Record Label. In bringing the art of improvisation and bop styles into the forefront, Paul’s new CD is found to be a marked change from most of the saxophone offerings that are heard these days.
As Paul Carr embarks upon this musical journey entitled Just Noodlin, he runs the gamut of original tracks and ever-changing cover songs. With assistance from the effervescent trumpeter,Terell Stafford, chemistry is assured. Between the two musicians, their dynamic interaction seems to be as natural as their playing abilities. With one CD to his credit already, Paul has shown that he is not just a flash in the pan. His music is etched in the annals of hard bop and he demonstrates an uncanny innate sense of unparalleled presence, which is quite unusual for a musician of his years. Most of what Paul plays is filled with energy and serenity, especially on tracks where emphasis needs to be apparent. By incorporating the works of such notable composers as Hal David, Burt Bacharach, George Gershwin and Hank Mobley; Carr took a big gamble in trying to fill those shoes. But all in all, Paul Carr did a superb job interpreting the work of some of the most phenomenal names in music. In addition, the exhibition of his own compositions was a definite plus, as well, because he showed that he is not a one-dimensional musician.
The first cut on the CD is the title track. The first and most important aspect that I noticed was the amount of heat "Just Noodlin’" possessed. Paul and Terell Stafford hit the ground running with some high-end energy-filled showcase of talent. Their charisma and musical collective the two display is contagious. On other tracks such as "Alfie," "Pat ‘N’ Chat" and "Dixie Pig," Paul Carr pushes the envelope of his Texas roots. Having grown up in Houston, Texas, he is well versed in the influences of Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, James Clay, Buddy Tate and David "Fathead" Newman, whose so-called "Texas Tenor" sound was a mainstay during the 1940s and ‘50s. Although Paul Carr grew up listening to these legendary figures, in no way does he try to imitate these incredible jazz practitioners. Instead, he expands upon their sound and creates an individualized voice that speaks volumes of what has come out of the Texas tradition.
Overall, Just Noodlin’ is the end result of following a slowly evolving path towards excellence. Paul Carr’s work has already been recognized on the Washington, DC/Maryland jazz scene many times over since he received a degree in music from Howard University. He is frequently seen at various nightspots and has collected a cadre of fans throughout the area. Although Paul’s background in jazz is derived from the "Texas Tenors," when listening to his sound there are other inferences as well. Paul also pulls from the likable qualities of John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley to make a musical statement. In either case and no matter how the notes are cut, Paul Carr and Just Noodlin’ are two of hard bop jazz’s finest and most refreshing ambassadors around today.