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Features

Grammy-winning saxophonist to shine bright at St. Charles Jazz Weekend

ST. CHARLES – At age 42, saxophonist Frank Catalano already has an impressive resume under his belt.

While still in high school, Catalano performed with the likes of Tony Bennett, Miles Davis and Stan Getz. He has roots in the area, having played with the Elgin Community College Jazz Band as an ECC student in 1999.

His vast resume includes performing on three Grammy Award-winning, and 11 Grammy-nominated recordings with artists including Jennifer Lopez, Destiny's Child and John Legend.

Catalano will perform as part of the eighth annual St. Charles Jazz Weekend, presented by the St. Charles Business Alliance. The Kane County Chronicle is one of the sponsors of the event.

St. Charles Jazz Weekend will take place Sept. 12 to 15 at venues throughout downtown St. Charles. There are 35 different performances set between 16 venues for brunch, dinner and late-night entertainment.

Catalano will headline at The Filling Station Pub & Grill at 6 p.m. Sept. 12, at The House Pub at 9 p.m. Sept. 13 and 14, and at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the First Street Plaza.

This year’s downtown venues include Eden on the River, The Wine Exchange, Francesca’s by the River, ROX City Grill, Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, The Filling Station Pub & Grill, The House Pub, La Mesa Modern Mexican, McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub, First Street Plaza, Vintage 53, Club Arcada, Mount Saint Mary’s Park, Baltria Vintage Gallery, Harvest Lounge at Pheasant Run Resort, and The Office Dining and Spirits.

For a full schedule, go to stcjazzweekend.com.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Catalano about his illustrious career. The interview has been edited for length and style.

Eric Schelkopf: It's a pleasure talking to you again. I'm trying to remember the last time we spoke. I think you were talking to me about your work with Jimmy Chamberlin from The Smashing Pumpkins.

Of course, you're going to be part of St. Charles Jazz Weekend again. You've been part of the event ever year. Why do you like being part of it?

Frank Catalano: I have a bunch of friends and family still in the St. Charles area and it's always really fun getting to play there to see a lot of friends and family who I don't get to see as regularly as I would like throughout the year. But also, the setting is really nice and all the clubs and venues are really nice.

On Sept. 13, before I play The House Pub, I agreed to play with my friends, the Violent Femmes, at Riot Fest in Chicago. So it will be a very, very busy weekend and it should be a lot of fun.

Schelkopf: That's quite a switch, from playing with the Violent Femmes to playing at St. Charles Jazz Weekend.

Catalano: It's a little bit of a switch, but anytime you're dealing with high energy and fun music, there's a lot of similarities for sure. And the drummer for the Violent Femmes, John Sparrow, used to be my regular drummer and he actually played at St. Charles Jazz Weekend with me – I think probably seven or eight years ago – before the Violent Femmes got back together.

I play with a lot of rock people, but a lot of rock people have a jazz sensibility or, kind of like Jimmy Chamberlin, they started off as jazz musicians and then they went more the rock route. I got into jazz probably, in part, because of hearing Von Freeman play, who was my mentor.

Once I really got into jazz, there was kind of no going back for me, because that became immediately my favorite, and I love improvising. In my 20s especially, I was being hired to play on a lot of pop records and stuff like that.

I think that most people, if they're good musicians, enjoy playing all types of music.

Schelkopf: You're going to be playing at several venues during St. Charles Jazz Weekend. Are you going to be playing a different set at each venue or are you going to try to play to that particular venue? How's it going to work?

Catalano: At The Filling Station, I already know quite a few people that have told me they're coming out and they all have kind of their favorite songs. My mom said she's coming to The Filling Station, so I will definitely do a little more straight ahead set at The Filling Station, like stuff I used to play with Tony Bennett when I was in his band.

At The House Pub, especially because it's a little bit later at night, I'll probably keep that more on the funky side. And I'm not sure what I'm going to do in the afternoon at First Street Plaza, but probably it's going to be like some of all of the above.

Schelkopf: You were inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame last year. I imagine that was a big honor for you?

Catalano: Yeah, I was so happy.

Schelkopf: While you were still in high school, you had already performed with people like Tony Bennett, Miles Davis and Stan Getz. To be a high school student doing that, was that a pretty overwhelming experience?

Catalano: Well, I got to do a lot of that thankfully because of my mentor, Von Freeman. I think at the time, because I was so young, I didn't realize how rare and special these opportunities were, so I wasn't really overwhelmed. Now when I look back, I really appreciate it.

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