By Annabelle Blair
Queens native Carl Bartlett, Jr. and his band, The Carl Bartlett, Jr. Ensemble, continue to bring the elegance of jazz to New York.
The group is releasing its second CD, “Promise!,” Dec. 14, at Jazz at Kitano at the Kitano Hotel New York on East 38th Street in Manhattan.
Currently a resident of Cambria Heights, Bartlett grew up in St. Albans. His father and uncle, who are both members of a renowned R&B funk show and dance band, nurtured young Bartlett’s love for music. It was Bartlett’s uncle, Charles Bartlett, who introduced him to the genre with the jazz duo, Brecker Brothers, on Christmas Day in 1996.
The result was momentous for 14-year-old Bartlett.
“My life changed when I heard jazz for the first time,” Bartlett said. “I said, ‘This is what I have to do with my life.’”
Bartlett has since grown to become an internationally acclaimed artist and songwriter. He won second place in the jazz category of the 2015 International Songwriting Competition, a global contest with more than 18,000 entries from 120 countries. His first album “Hopeful” debuted in 2011, and all eight tunes on “Promise!” are originals, written by him.
Carl Bartlett said he grew up playing with his dad and uncle, and the three still play together when they can make time. His mother, whom he calls Buzz B, took all the photos for “Promise!,” including the album cover and band member photos. Bartlett’s family remains a strong source of inspiration for his music.
The Carl Bartlett, Jr. Ensemble has five members. Carl Bartlett is the bandleader and plays the alto saxophone. His uncle, Charles Bartlett, plays the trumpet. Yoichi Uzeki plays piano. Marcus McLaurine plays the bass and Sylvia Cuenca plays drums.
“Promise!” was recorded in Brooklyn in February, and Bartlett said its sound is unique because each player has a different interpretation of the music. Still, the camaraderie between band members remains strong.
In the seven years since his last album was made, Bartlett said his performing career had developed, as well as his personal experience as a musician.
“Sometimes we get taken on where we perform and how far we travel,” he said. “But, as a jazz musician, I’ve grown infinitely as an artist.”
Bartlett said he chose the eccentric spelling of “Promise!” because he wanted people to feel the word, promise. The capital letters make a bold statement, and the exclamation mark adds a sense of jubilation, he said.
“Instead of the normal way to spell it, I want to emphasize that this is what this CD embodies,” Bartlett said. “Not just promise in myself as musician, but the promise for life.”
The viewing party will usher in a six-or-seven-month tour for the band, which will include cities in New Jersey, New York, Pennslyvania, Washington, D.C. and Florida.
“When you do an album, you need to tour,” Bartlett said. “I’m fortunate to have received sponsorship to go on an East Coast tour.”
“Promise!” will be available in-store at the Academy Records and CDs in Manhattan Dec. 13. It will also be available physically and digitally on CD Baby and digitally-only on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
For more information on the band and album go online to www.carlbartlettjr.com.