ATLAS 1006; MARCH 1952



Okay, we understand, Charlie. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

Or maybe you figured that the parade of honking and squealing tracks hadn’t gotten you anywhere and so maybe toning things down some would work out better.

It could even be that the hopes you had for being a respected jazz musician won’t go down without a fight.

But throw us a bone, Charlie… and no, not cat bones either… and give us a little something to chew on with this single, won’t’cha?


Slowly Dying Each And Every Day
Take your pick on this release. Do you want a vocal or an instrumental?

Considering Charlie Singleton was a saxophonist first and foremost, not a singer, you’d probably go with the latter, which was our choice too. But just for the sake of completeness if you were curious about his attempts at crooning a song, then by all means check out the A-side of this single, Lonely Lover Blues, a performance that sounds like a late 1940’s track in that it can’t fully decide where it’s aimed at and sort of falls indistinctly in the middle.

Too upscale for blues, though it’s definitely got a dire blues-outlook. Too unsophisticated for jazz and yet too tranquil for rock, it’s a song that sounds good in a club… when you’re standing at the urinal that is and want to faintly hear some mellow notes in the distance rather than listening to the echo of porcelain being bombarded with the remnants of your last three drinks.

Since that’s nobody’s idea of a good way to spend an evening, let’s head back outside as here on Cat’s Paw, we get a good title with a moody late night ambiance to go with it that gives you something to picture it as it unfolds… a small combo playing in dark corners with a hyperactive piano offset by a somnolent bass with the drummer trying to acquiesce to both of them via the ticking cymbals and intermittent work on the rest of the kit.

On top of it all is Singleton who settles into a mid-tempo workout… wandering too much to be accused of locking into a groove, yet never improvising enough to take a freestyle lead as might be expected from him.

Instead it’s a slow prowl along foggy streets after dark, hinting at danger, of lurid encounters, or suggesting sad and lonely despair… your choice. None of those possibilities are necessarily wrong, so if you have a good imagination and can conjure up the appropriate visuals in your mind the scenes you paint will be interesting enough, yet at the same time none of those options are making their case in a definitive manner and as a result you may never land on the “right” image for your needs.

Stay In The Shadows
Here’s the thing about instrumentals… because they lack lyrics that tell a story, it’s up to the listener to create one themselves. Not a “story” per say with characters and conflict and drama, but rather an instantly identifiable image the music elicits in your mind each time you play it.

This is especially true it seems for the slower songs of any genre as fast instrumentals don’t always give you time to let your brain start the projector in your head because they want to move your legs before stimulating your brain.

Sometimes these images are not even determined by the specific sounds of the music itself, but rather the associated image of the artist… like say how Herb Albert records conjure up mid-60’s cocktail parties in the suburbs.

Cat’s Paw wants to be a bit mysterious, but as it goes along it pulls away from the alleys it started off in and heads back inside, climbing onto the bandstand as if to reassure you that it was just an act.

Everything about it works well enough still. Singleton’s tone is nice, the drummer becomes more prominent as it goes along, but the uneasiness that characterized the early mood is replaced by the banal familiarity of quasi-jazz.

Maybe the way to picture it is if you wake up from a sound sleep in the middle of night, still not fully extracting yourself from a vivid dream and thinking you heard something lurking in the darkness, shadows from the moon outside your window giving the impression of someone in your room with the creeping dread of uncertainty putting your senses at high alert. Then, flipping on a light switch, finding nothing is amiss.

Is it a relief? Maybe compared to having a knife-wielding maniac in your bedroom looking to carve out your kidneys to sell on the black market it is. But when it comes to music you’d rather keep that paranoia going a little longer so as not to break the spell.

A Narrow Margin Between Good And Great
Considering how rapidly Charlie Singleton’s releases on Atlas came out, one each month all winter more or less with no time to let any of them find an audience, it’s not the worst thing to have each one be aimed at a slightly different constituency.

This one was just a little more upscale than Blow, Mr. Singleton, the solid rocker that kicked off his stint with the company and it’s also considerably darker than the follow up Swinging Away, a peppy track but lightweight by nature.

But while Cat’s Paw is a perfectly acceptable record, one which shows off his technical skill and features a pretty good arrangement with the band complimenting him nicely, it pulls up short on what it could have been with just a little more effort… an edgy mood piece suitable for whatever black and white film noir Hollywood had on the docket for the spring of 1952… The Narrow Margin maybe.

Then again, would heading even further into the alley have made it any more marketable though?

Nah. Of course not.

But at least if it hadn’t relented on its early promise, then instead of us saying “this isn’t bad” seven decades down the road we could be telling you to make sure you lock the doors before listening to it with the lights out tonight.


(Visit the Artist page of Charlie Singleton for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)