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July/August 2007

Joel Frahm
We Used to Dance
Anzic

Joel Frahm is a serious, straight-ahead hard-bop saxophonist who’s developing a habit of releasing top-notch albums. For his new effort, We Used to Dance, Frahm enlists Stan Getz’s old rhythm section—pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Victor Lewis—and the results are immensely satisfying. As each tune progresses, the quartet feels more comfortable in the ensemble and in one another’s presence. Frahm doesn’t demand all the attention, either; he gives the trio ample time in the spotlight, which gives Barron a few opportunities to strut his considerable stuff.

With an approach that is lyrical and bluesy, expressive and warm, Frahm could pass for a young Phil Woods on tenor. He doesn’t stray far from a tune’s melody and rarely throws in a dissonant note, choosing instead to get inside it and develop its core. On Barron’s lilting bossa nova “Joanne Julia,” Frahm skips around the melody, harmonizing with ease. He works magic through the quicker tempos of his own “A Whole New You” and “Jobimiola,” a frothy bossa tune that feels like “Corcovado” after a few shots of espresso. Frahm’s blowing grows mournful on a patient version of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and sweetly nostalgic on the slow waltz of his title composition, which closes the disc.

Originally published in July/August 2007
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