Paula Atherton | Can You Feel It
by Stamish Malcuss
Multi-instrumentalist Paul Atherton has quickly been establishing herself as a respected force within the smooth jazz genre. She has enjoyed sharing the stage with a cavalcade of contemporary jazz notables such as The Rippingtons, Nick Colionne, Chuck Loeb, Cindy Bradley, Brian Simpson, Althea Renee, Four80East, David Sanborn, Bob James, Marc Antoine, Hiroshima, Gerald Albright, and Chieli Minucci. Her singles have afforded her continued success with her latest single, the title track off her album Can You Feel It, reaping #1s on Billboard, Mediabase, and the Smooth Jazz Network.
Atherton has a background in traditional jazz, and that sensibility can be heard throughout her full-length album Can You Feel It. There is a polish to her playing, but she can hold her own with any instrumentalist in the traditional jazz vernacular when listening to her soloing, whether on flute or alto saxophone. This ability is on full display on the first track, “One Night in Madrid,” given a Latin treatment. Atherton is on flute and is equally adroit on flute as she is on her primary instrument, alto saxophone. Joined by Bill Heller, best known for his work with The Rippingtons, this track is a technically sound and exciting listen. Atherton takes control with fast driving trills and colorizations that add to the intensity of the cut. I found this tune a highlight of the album right out of the gate.
“In the Pocket” has a greasy groove to it, co-written by Atherton with Matt Godina and Lou Gimenez, who has collaborated with Atherton on several albums. Godina digs in with a grooving organ-keyboard sound that adds a bite. Atherton gets low and groovy on alto sax with saxophone screams and a breakdown section that explodes into a deeply felt backbeat enhanced by Lionel Cordew on drums. The cut is aptly titled, this is a groove fest for days.
As someone who is lamenting for summer to hang on a bit longer, I gravitated towards “Summer Song,” which lightened my load. 2020 has been a year of deep struggles, and this tune written by Atherton livened the mood. Also featuring Cindy Bradley on trumpet and trombone and Gimenez on guitar adding in luminosity, my cares melted away. The tune also features special guest Nathan Mitchell, who has enjoyed placement on the Billboard charts in the smooth jazz category. He adds an atmospheric essence to the cut.
Atherton has a triumph on her hands with Can You Feel It, each track features different production collaborators, which could lead to a mishmash in lesser hands, but its Atherton’s salient prowess on her given instruments that include flute, alto-sax, and voice on select cuts that is the binding mucilage of success. Highly recommended.