Paul Carlon Octet
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Paul Carlon Octet


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"The Paul Carlon Octet: Other Tongues"

There is so much great jazz being made in New York these days that no one person can keep up with it all. It comes in the forms you might expect—from major personalities like Dave Douglas and John Zorn and Dave Holland—and in myriad sneakier forms. Sometimes you despair at having to remember the names of all these stupendous musicians. There are just too many to keep track of.

I present as evidence the Paul Carlon Octet and Carlon’s second disc as a leader, Other Tongues. The group (trumpet, two reeds, two trombones, rhythm, plus singing and tapping on a few tracks) will be largely anonymous to most fans, but you’ll marvel at the playing still. With most tracks cast in a Latin jazz groove, you’ll want to dance. With a few tracks trading in the musical complexity of modern jazz history—Ellington and Mingus, for starters, with dashes of Dolphy and splashes of Chick Corea for good effect—you’ll certainly want to listen.

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As a tenor player, Carlon is straightforward and brawny without being retro. He is modern enough to be a latter-day Paul Gonsalves, usually pushing forward with the rhythmic syncopation that his immersion in Latin music demands. As an arranger and composer, Carlon is blissfully hard to categorize—in the Latin camp certainly, but never contained by it. For example, “Smada” is a Latin chart that reworks the Billy Strayhorn tune, but uses a Cuban danzon and Colombian porro. The melody, harmonized for flute and wordless female vocal (Ileana Santamaria, Mongo’s daughter and a bandleader in her own right), is minor and haunting, backed by a tangy brass chart. The bass-line hops with Latin groove, then two flutes harmonize. Yet the centerpiece of the track is a pedal-point drenched piano solo by John Stenger that builds up steam to a lovely, chorded climax.

A more traditional salsa feeling permeates “Boogie Down Broder”, where the trombones growl and croon in up-tempo over a snappy piano montuno. Because the octet is nimble like a bop group, the start of the melody is quick and light like a Charlie Parker tune, but because the octet is rich like a big band, the track has the color and shading of a great Eddie Palmieri arrangement. Get up and dance!

Carlon’s writing is often funky. “Extraordinary Rendition” is driven by a strong bass-line for bass, left-hand piano, and trombone. Drummer William “Beaver” Bausch sets up a groove backing, and then he gets to trade fours with “Rumbatap” dancer Max Pollack while the horns punch and jab behind them. “Rumbatapestry” starts with the dancer and then leads us to a bass-tenor unison line that builds and builds until the rhythm section starts to groove in an off-kilter way that almost seems like a Latin/hip-hop thing. Carlon works out over the band until everyone lays out except for the leader and Pollack. It’s a killer duet that takes the whole band back home to a layered vocal tag.

Some of the best writing is not in the Latin bag. “Street Beat” is a swaggering straight ahead chart that has the blues slink of a Horace Silver tune, but outfitted with Ellingtonian brass punches and a tenor solo by guest player Buddy Terry. “A Certain Slant of Light” is the kind of dark ballad that Mingus did so well—all shadows and mystery, with the low brass balanced against flute and a certain greasy elegance always being suggested. Carlon’s tenor plays as the lead singer, and the band shades him to darkness at each turn. Dave Smith gets in a lovely statement on trumpet, bitter and bitten like it was always 3 AM. Emily Dickinson would be proud to hear it.

There are some more “out” tracks on Other Tongues, as well. While “The Spirit Calls” is not harmonically avant-garde, its structure and general disposition is impressionistic and adventurous. Beginning with Santamaria’s vocal above mbira percussion, the track slowly evolves into a Latin groove that sets up a Carlon solo that is particularly modern—the kind of proto-Trane stuff that Branford Marsalis has been doing so well at greater length. Carlon remains concise and clean but interesting, and a gentle trombone workout takes us back to an outstanding arrangement for band and vocal, with Santamaria crying over a horn chart that echoes her in passion and phrasing.

The album closes with “Clave 66”, a summation—a Latin groove that suggests the hard bop of Silver even as it voices complexity like Mingus. It’s an appropriate place to end—fun, interesting, and surprising. Just because you’ve never heard of Carlon, that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready, willing, and able to stun you. Under the flute solo by Anton Denner, the Latin beat edges toward funk at times, then it slips back into tradition. Like the rest of the disc, this track goes where it wants to with ease, the great band just doing its thing, making great music that pleases with graceful excitement.

Other Tongues might stay in rotation on your player for so long that you’ll have to keep glancing back at the case to remember the band’s name: the Paul Carlon Octet. Paul Carlon—a name worth remembering after all. -, March 9, 2007; by Will Layman

"Other Tongues: The Paul Carlon Octet"

On two-thirds of this masterful debut from tenor saxophonist/flutist
Paul Carlon and his octet, things get deep into world rhythms, with Afro-
Cuban grooves, some rhumba, a bit of cha cha, some Latin-infused
Ellingtonian swing and Yoruban chants, Cuban timba, Colombian porro and Max Pollack's rumbatap (on “Rumbatapestry”), along with
gorgeously lilting vocals by Ileana Santamaria (daughter of Cuban
percussionist Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria) on “Rumbatapestry” and”Smada.” But they also bring things up from the Caribbean with “Street Beat,” featuring a guest spot by tenor saxphonist Buddy Terry (Ray Charles, Horace Silver, Count Basie, Art Blakey) trading tenor saxophone solos with Carlon. Alto sax man Anton Denner also makes his contributions, sounding like an Oliver Nelson/Eric Dolphy workout; Terry takes it out there, while Carlon and Denner counterpoint him in a tighter, more mainstream mode.
“Extraordinary Rendition,” a fresh and original bit of music-making,
showcases the group's freewheeling dynamics: the two trombones build a
solid foundation behnd a flute/alto/trumpet front line and the flat slap
percussion of Max Pollack's rumbatap sound.
“The Spirit Calls” features Santamira's lovely voice in front of Carlon's brittle marimba-like mbira percussion, sounding at first very Old World, before undergoing a modern transformation. Carlon's tenor sax solo sounds dark and gritty in front of the propulsive rhythm, giving way to Mike Fahie's trombone turn, which builds from a tight and terse
beginning to an eloquent and assertive statement--followed by Santamaria belting out a second vocal turn. The mix of styles hold together well on this cohesive, high-energy set.
Other Tongues proves itself an auspicious debut, weaving together vibrant world music sounds with hard-edged modern jazz. -, October 28, 2006; by Dan McClenaghan

"Paul Carlon: Other Tongues"


The reedman, composer and arranger unveils his own inventively contemporary take on latin jazz, with a basic trumpet/two reeds/two trombones/piano/ bass/drums octet,
deploying a sparkling range of fresh lines, orchestral colour and rhythmic diversity in a series of charts packed with incident. And he has a crisp, buoyant and ebullient band to carry them off with idiomatic brio. Despite plenty of space for solos and the presence of guests - Buddy Terry (tenor), Ileana Santamaria (vocals) and Max Pollak (rumbatap, Afro-Cuban dance, and body percussion) - on a few tracks, this impresses
most as an ensemble music because it clearly reflects Carlon's vision. A case in point is his latin reassessment of Strayhorn's venerable Smada, the only piece not by Carlon and ample evidence of the kind of imagination and self-belief he brings to the idiom. - The Irish Times, Dec. 1, 2006; by Ray Comiskey

"Paul Carlon Octet: Other Tongues"

Paul Carlon plays tenor saxophone, flute, Mbira and composes and arranges tunes on this debut CD. A native of rural central New York, Carlon has been active on the
New York City jazz scene for 15 years, performing with (or composing for) an array of jazz and Latin-jazz bands, as well as leading his own groups. He currently teaches at
the College of Staten Island. Proven by the nine original tunes on this disc, Carlon might be one of the City’s best kept secrets. Not only can
he lead and write/arrange exciting tunes, but he plays tenor sax with imagination and verve. The “tongues” he blends are swing, Afro-Cuban timba, rumba and New York City jazz. Performing in his octet are Anton Denner (alto sax, flute), Dave Smith (trumpet), Ryan Keberle and Mike Fahie (trombones), John Stenger (piano), Dave Ambrosio (bass) and William “Beaver” Baush (drums). Their expert solos and section work enhance each tune.
Guest artists include rumbatap artist Max Pollak, tenor saxophonist Buddy Terry (on “Street Beat”) and vocalist
Ieana Santamaria (the youngest daughter of the legendary Cuban percussion master “Mongo” Santamaria) who sings on the catchy “Rumbatapestry,” the Billy Strayhorn
number “Smada,” and the exhilarating Carlon tune, “The
Spirit Calls.”
Swinging, melodious, beat-driven tunes and suspenseful, fascinating arrangements (many with stirring Latin beats) make this CD a fully engaging listen. Carlon has crafted a very promising debut recording! - Jazz & Blues Report, June 2007; by Nancy Ann Lee

"The Paul Carlon Octet featuring Ileana Santamaria: Other Tongues"

Most enjoyable Latin-flavored jazz I've heard in years! While I enjoy the Latin numbers of artists such as Cal Tjader and big band charts from Kenton and Gerald Wilson, most Latin jazz strikes me as overly
repetitious. Reedman and composer Carlon has composed all ten tracks here except Billy Strayhorn's Smada, which he arranged. He is involved in the NYC jazz and Latin scene, and has assembled a blueribbon group of musician friends for this album. His clever arrangements - perhaps with the presence of the pair of trombones - gives the band the
sound of a much larger aggregation than just an octet. The track Rumbatapestry mixes Afro-Cuban
rhythms with other world music and tap dance - you hear the sounds of tap-dancer Max Pollak, sounding like another Latin percussion instrument in the band. A strong Cuban influence aids in the musical appeal of the octet. Vocalist Santamaria is a standout on all three of her tracks. (I originally hesitated seeing the three vocal credits, due to so many good albums ruined by the wife or girlfriend handling vocal chores on some tracks. I couldn't have been more wrong!) Boogie Down Broder is a tribute to a Cuban trombonist and composer, and Clave 66 - with a great flute solo - was inspired by
the Cuban timba bands. - Audiophile Audition, December 7, 2006 ; by John Henry

"Live Review: The Paul Carlon Octet at Fat Cat"

The Paul Carlon Octet performed music from the saxophonist/composer’s new CD, Other Tongues, at Fat Cat (Dec. 8th). The band, featuring trumpeter Dave Smith, trombonists Mike Fahie and Ryan Keberle, alto saxophonist Erica von Kleist and Carlon on tenor and
flute with John Stenger (piano), Dave Ambrosio (bass) and William “Beaver” Bausch (drums), blended
AfroCarribean and other world music rhythms with contemporary compositional techniques reminiscent of Ellington, Mingus and Gil Evans. Beginning the evening with Carlon’s bright dedication to Juan Pablo Torres, “Boogie Down Broder”, the group was joined
by vocalist Ileana Santamaria and tap innovator Max Pollak on “Rumbatapestry”, a tour de force feature on which the rhythmatist augmented traditional rumba and tap dancing with body percussion, while Carlon played warm tenor and the singer intoned a Yoruban
chant in an exposition that was visually and sonically compelling. Santamaria was featured once again on Carlon’s exotic ethereal arrangement of Strayhorn’s
“Smada”. The band blew straight ahead on “Street Beat”, a Basie-ish swinger that featured Carlon and
von Kleist in a dueling tenor-alto dialogue. Carlon’s “A Certain Slant of Light” dramatically utilized
sweetly dissonant chords reflecting a Mingus-ian mood. The set concluded with Carlon’s imaginative arrangement of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”, featuring his flute and tenor with Fahie and
Keberle on plunger-muted trombones. -, January 1, 2007; by Russ Musto

"Paul Carlon Octet, "Other Tongues""

Paul Carlon is an impressive young composer and arranger whose forte is Latin jazz. Based in New York, he leads a wideranging octet that serves as an outlet for his writng and tenor
saxophone and flute playing. "Other Tongues" (Deep Tone), the group's debut, is notable for the rhythmic foundation and ensemble colors of his writing. Carlon writes from the ground up: He establishes a rhythm and then details the contribution of each player to that foundation. For
example, on "Lucid Dreaming," the first track, a bass vamp sets up the groove, and then horns are layered and dovetailed in. In this way, you get call-and-response of rhythms and a buildup of polyrhythms in different colors. Carlon doesn't stint on the writing. His charts are full of
background figures behind the soloists, his approach recalling
Duke Ellington, who integrated soloist and ensemble into a continuous compositional unit. "Smada" (the only non-Carlon
composition on the album), penned by Ellington-associate Billy
Strayhorn, incorporates a haunting wordless vocal by guest singer Ileana Santamaria, one of three appearances she makes on the session. Using her voice in this hornlike way is another fine Carlon touch. In addition to Carlon on tenor and flute, the octet includes alto
saxophone (doubling on flute), trumpet, two trombones, piano,
bass and drums. Bluesy tenor saxophonist Buddy Terry joins the
group on "Street Beat," and Max Pollak, billed as the creator of
Rumbatap (tap dancing that integrates Afro-Cuban rhythms)
performs on "Rumbatapestry" and "Extraordinary Rendition." Bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer William "Beaver" Bausch are key players in keeping this band on track. And pianist John Stenger proves especially inspired on his solo on the dark "Portals." Good use of flutes on this one, too. - Raleigh-Durham News & Observer, March 4, 2007; by Owen Cordle

"CD Review: The Paul Carlon Octet"

Deep within the structure of Latin jazz there lives another creature altogether, which these musicians are coaxing into the light. Instead of the usual Latin groove we associate with brightly colored festivals and more personal, sensual encounters, we get a whole new feeling of mystery and exploration. From the rural stretches of New York, Paul Carlon is a saxophonist who has surrounded himself with restless Manhattan musicians also marching to different drummers. For 15 years, Carlon has worked with players looking for new buttons to push, pursued by a need to hear fresh voices rising from the gutty extremes of modern emotions in
Latin and jazz. This is Carlon's debut as a leader, with a few guest artists stopping by to share the heavy lifting. Most notably there is Rumbatap pioneer Max Pollak,
shaping new beats out of the basic rumba rhythm. Ileana Santamaria, the youngest daughter of Mongo Santamaria, brings vocal gifts from her family's rich gene pool along with her fascination for Afro-Cuban jazz energy and ancient Yoruban chants.
Adding more straight-ahead flavors just for the nostalgia effect is Buddy Terry blowing bluesy tenor solos on
"Street Beat." Being set into the mix of nine original compositions plus Billy Strayhorn's "Smada," this track
calls up images of the old architecture that's always hanging in the background of every city's downtown arts district. The octet consists of two saxes, two trombones and trumpet plus a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. A Latin band with only one drummer might be suspect, but these guys make it happen. - Tucson Citizen, March 8, 2007; by Chuck Graham

"Latin Beat Music Update"

Two new interesting jazz CDs come from NY: The Paul Carlon Octet's Other Tongues (featuring Ileana Santamaria on three vocal tracks) and Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band's Land of Nod. While Carlon explores the crossroads of jazz and Afro-Cuban music, Washburne's Latin jazz reaches for new boundaries. Both albums will delight those audiences tired of the usual "mish mash". - Latin Beat Magazine, February 2007; by Nelson Rodriguez

"Paul Carlon Octet, "Other Tongues""

City College alum Paul Carlon (tenor sax, flute, mbira, composition, arrangement), who teaches at the College of Staten Island, has carved out a solid creative presence on the New York Latin jazz scene since the
early 1990s, working such notables as Andy González, Clave y Guaguancó, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Juan Pablo Torres, Arturo Sandoval,
Ileana Santamaría, Sonido Isleño, Steve Turre, Chucho Valdés, Yoruba Andabo, Phil Woods, and Harvie S.
Other Tongues, his second recording as a leader, features all Carlon originals, save one. He enlists Ileana
Santamaría (Mongo's daughter, and leader of the orchestra that bears her name), a frequent collaborator,
who lends her ethereal Afro-Cuban vocal signature on "Rumbatapestry," "The Spirit Calls" and "Smada"
(Carlon's inventive arrangement of the classic Billy Strayhorn title, in a many textured, laid-back essay).
He is an imaginative composer with a Jones for the big-band sound, coaxed forth in the improvisational crossfire of a solid octet setting. Sturdy backing takes the form of John Stenger's precise, ringing piano, a
ringing, growling brass line (trumpet and paired trombones), and a tight rhythm section of bass and drums. Behold the joyous funk of "Street Beat" (with a shining guest stint by tenor saxophonist Buddy Terry) or "Boogie Down Broder" to get a flavor. At different moments, Cannonball Adderley, Mingus and Gene Ammons seem to be smiling over Carlon's shoulder as he brings fresh ideas to contemporary Latin jazz. - Rootsworld, March 21, 2007; by Michael Stone


"Other Tongues" (2006, Deep Tone Records)
Tracks receiving national and international airplay:
Clave 66
Boogie Down Broder
Street Beat
The Spirit Calls
Extraordinary Rendition



Blending gritty Ellingtonesque swing, Afro-Cuban timba and rumba, funk, and hardcore NYC jazz, the Paul Carlon Octet released its acclaimed debut CD 'Other Tongues' in November 2006. The band's repertoire blends Carlon's uniquely crafted originals with covers ranging from a Delta Blues classic (Skip James’ Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues ) to a Strayhorn arrangment (Smada) to Brazilian Afro-Samba (Baden Powell’s Canto de Xangô). The Octet has performed all over NYC at such venues as Small's, Satalla, Hunter College, the Soul Cafe, Fat Cat, Makor, El Taller Latinoamericano, etc... and has also performed around the Northeast, including in Boston, Syracuse, Utica, Ithaca, and Hudson. The group is in the process of finishing their second CD, "Roots Propaganda", to be release in late summer 2008.
Originally from Guadeloupe, young vocalist Christelle Durandy has been on stages since she was a child performing the folkloric and popular music of Guadeloupe with her family's band. She brings fire, soul, musicianship and a deep knowledge of the Afro-Cuban traditions to the Octet's performances.
A native of rural central New York, saxophonist and composer Paul Carlon has been active on the New York City jazz and Latin jazz scenes for fifteen years, performing with and/or composing for Harvie S, the Jason Lindner Big Band, the late Afro-Cuban star Juan Pablo Torres, Grupo los Santos, Rumbatap Dance Company, Sonido Isleño, the Ileana Santamaría Orchestra, Swingadelic, Clave y Guaguancó, and Phil Woods, among others.

“ Most enjoyable Latin-flavored jazz I've heard in years!” -- John Henry, Audiophile Audition Web Magazine

“ Other Tongues proves itself to be a masterful debut, weaving together vibrant world music sounds with hard-edged modern jazz." -- Dan McClenaghan,

"The reedman, composer and arranger unveils his own inventively contemporary take on latin jazz, deploying a sparkling range of fresh lines, orchestral colour and rhythmic diversity [that are] ample evidence of the kind of imagination and self-belief he brings to the idiom."
--Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times