Amadee Castenell, Live at Club 39 (Black Rose Records)

While you may not be familiar with his name, you are very likely to have heard Amadee Castenell’s sax playing on any number of recordings. He’s played with local legends like Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Chocolate Milk, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, to name but a few. By the time Castenell finishes his first proper solo on Live at Club 39 you will know why he is in such demand—his tone and complete command of his instrument. Rather than be contained to any one genre, Castenell allows himself the freedom to expose his jazz and funk sensibilities in a well-crafted recording that shows his ability to fit in any number of genres including soul and rhythm and blues as well as the aforementioned jazz and funk.

Things get heated up right away with the Castenell original “Blues For Dee.” Bob Enuk’s high-octane guitar playing lets you know right away that this band means business. Castenell’s propulsive blowing moves things along as he, Enuk and Ben Broder (piano) solo over the solid groove courtesy of Steve Monahan (bass) and John Loud (drums). Things slow down for Donny Hathaway’s “Valdez In The Country.” Here we get our first chance to hear Castenell on flute, an instrument he returns to on Herb Alpert’s “Green Lemonade.” The tempo and feel is in sharp contrast to the frenetic “Blues For Dee.” The funky groove developed here is revisited again throughout the recording.

“The Pink Panther Theme” is slow, slinky, and sensual. This is a late-night groove that builds as Castenell, Enuk and Broder once again share the spotlight with some tasteful soloing. “Buda” and especially “Funk Thing” (which features some nice organ work from Tom West) find Castenell once again mining a funky territory to good effect.

“I Wouldn’t Mind,” which was written by Allen Toussaint, features some gorgeous blowing from Castenell; and after years of playing with Toussaint, he really sounds confident and at home on this track.

On Herbie Mann’s “Memphis Underground,” Parker Wheeler gets a chance to shine on

harmonica, and of course Castenell handles the flute in masterful manner.

Live at Club 39 ends on a beautiful note with a take on Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” as Castenell trades solos with Joe Fox on flugelhorn.