Roderick on a Roll
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Calvin Evans photo
Roderick Paulin has been a heartbeat on tenor sax for a range of local bands, starting with ReBirth in the 1990s. Paulin, 48, saw the guys in ReBirth and Dirty Dozen playing 300 days on the road and wanted something else. He had traveled far from his teenage years, the youngest of six music-making brothers marching the streets in the brass band of their father, Doc Paulin, who paraded more than six decades, retired in his 90s and died at 100. Roderick made a detour in his thirties, to Denham Springs; he held down a day job for ATT and found himself gravitating into Southern University Law School in Baton Rouge.
Lawyers can do anything. Roderick figured if they could do it, so could he. But his springboard to professional high cotton came down with a missing coil. Three courses shy of the diploma, he got tired and bored; he felt the old fire hitting the belly – he wanted jazz.
Musicians move in such an existential world of changes in personnel and places that if you have a profile but dissolve for a dozen years or so (excepting a parade gig now and then) the attitude is not so much where you been? as who are you with these days?
These days, Roderick Paulin, back in the city, is a music teacher in the Orleans Parish schools and a mainstay in Delfeayo Marsalis’s Uptown Jazz Orchestra. They play most Wednesdays at Snug Harbor. Roderick Paulin’s new release, Slow But Steady, is a 2-CD set with sterling arrangements of ensemble and big band jazz featuring 39 accompanists on the various tunes, among them David Torkanowsky and Larry Sieberth on keyboards; Shannon Powell, Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley and Gerald French on drums; trumpeters Mark Braud, Jamil Sharif, Wendell Brunious among trumpeters, and at the risk of courting enemies we shall pass over other worthy names in a jump cut to vocalists Germaine Bazzle and Quiana Lynell. All good, all very good.
Roderick roams the waterfront on songs as diverse as “Lil Liza Jane,” “Misty,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and “Sleepy Time Down South.”
The scope of twenty-two songs is a sign of Paulin’s artistic range; he has never been showcased like this, and moves with fluent ease between different styles and use of the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones. “It took fourteen years to make this record,” he says by phone on a drive between gigs. “I paid for it a little bit at a time, didn’t get any loans, self financed it and I’m seriously happy about it.”
He should be. Slow But Steady is a stunning achievement. My only quibble -- conveyed to Paulin in the call in which he disclosed that his daughter is in final semester at Southern Law -- is the lead cut on each CD, an inspirational Roderick pep-talk on how to make life work, I thought, should have been deep-sixed. He burst out laughing. “I hear you, but when they played those cuts on WWOZ, some guy in the Netherlands listening on the web contacted my website RoderickPaulin.com, ordered CDs and said those cuts really helped him out. Tell your readers they can order on Amazon, i-tunes, or CDBaby, too.” I told him I would.