Sunday Jazz: Let’s Talk About the PolCat Album

PolCat album coverI see at least half a dozen PR emails a day concerning albums and projects I have little interest in. So it figures that I missed the February release of PolCat, the debut album from a project featuring Chris Poland, one of my all-time favorite guitarists.

The name, I’m certain, comes from Poland and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, who make up half of this astoundingly talented quartet.

How I stumbled upon this album is not important — I’m just glad I did. It’s one of the freshest, most enjoyable releases of any genre I’ve heard this year, and hopefully points the way to more output from this group.

I haven’t heard much of anything from Catalano prior to this album, but his sax playing is agile and tuneful. Likewise, the rhythm section of bassist Sean O’Bryan Smith and drummer Jim Gifford is tight and propulsive. They clearly have chops (witness Smith’s sick grooving on “Pharoh” as an example), but when necessary they lay down a rock-solid foundation for Poland and Catalano to do their thing.

But the main reason I wanted to hear PolCat was Chris Poland. Having mostly heard Poland’s solo work and his work with Megadeth, I was curious to hear how he would sound in a jazzier outfit. Turns out he sounds fantastic. His playing is in turns delicate and ambient (reminding me a bit of Andy Summers, another of my favorites) and white-hot. He shreds like nobody’s business on tracks like “Forget About It” and “Mighty Burner,” which I’ve added to my Sunday Jazz playlist (linked below). On cuts like “Rain” and “Glass House” he alternates between placid and frenetic with ridiculous ease.

Serious jazz fans will appreciate the expert interplay and top-notch improvisation on PolCat, while devoted metalheads should love hearing one of the great guitarists of the genre do his thing. The bottom line is that PolCat has a little something for everyone, and is not to be missed. I don’t have any song samples for you, but check out this live rendition of “Mighty Burner” from the group’s debut show at the Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, CA.

PolCat is out now on Ashro Records, and can be purchased from iTunes (no Amazon yet).

Track listing

  1. “Forget About It”
  2. “God Made It Beautiful”
  3. “Microphone Check (feat. Malcolm-Jamal Warner)”
  4. “Mighty Burner”
  5. “Rain”
  6. “Glass House”
  7. “Sona”
  8. “Pharoh”
  9. “NS Factor”
  10. “Americana”

(Spotify users — you can listen to selections from PolCat and many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)