Charlie Mariano: Silver Blue, The Door Is Open & The Great Concert
Charlie Mariano with Cholet-Kanzig-Papaux Trio
Julian F. Thayer / Charlie Mariano / Klaus Suonsaari
Charlie Mariano with Philip Catherine & Jasper van't Hof
On what are likely some of Charlie Mariano's final dates before his death last June, the alto poet carves through fresh (if simple) material and rebrands classics he's played since 1950 in quartet with rhythm section. Seldom does his tone falter, pitch waver, note choice err or line sag.
With pianist Jean-Christophe Cholet, bassist Heiri Kanzig and drummer Marcel Papaux on Silver Blue, Mariano plays King Lear, epic and center-stage among sympathetic followers. Tragic self-knowledge haunts languid-paced classics like "Prelude to a Kiss" and "My Funny Valentine." His dead-slow "My Foolish Heart" cries out to recall youthful pains and joys. "He's Gone" and "Half Moon In A Blue Sky" stand elegiac as Eurojazz-poems on wings, one ink-black and the other pallid. "Black Orpheus" opening with bleak verse, soon soars with bluesy hope.
With drummer Klaus Suonsaari and/or bassist Julian Thayer, Mariano is middleman in a set of free-blown cameo originals for The Door is Open. Each has a solo and paired duos; Mariano contributes only the nagaswaram-slinky "Prana." Except two ripping openers, Mariano's gravid, scalding balladry steals the show: "Folk Song," "Zaku" and the lone standarda swooning "Street of Dreams."
The Great Concert, Mariano's reunion with fellow members of '70s Euro-fusion band Pork Pie, achieves high lyrical pitch in soulful communion. Unfurling six stretched melody-rich originals with guitarist Philip Catherine and pianist Jasper van't Hof, Mariano, racked with cancer but incandescent of spirit, sounds relaxed, intense, his solos consistently ripe and nuanced. On "Quiet American" Mariano sounds as reedy as an accordion while on "Randy" he runs from heartfelt halcyon Willie Smith to blackstrap molasses-drippin' Hank Crawford.
Ever the sojourner through power gigs (Akiyoshi! Kenton! Mingus!), travels (often to India) and visionary bands (Osmosis, United Jazz & Rock Ensemble, Pork Pie), the once-restless seeker Mariano sounds at peace.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Prelude To A Kiss; Cheers My Lady; Ages Ago; My Funny Valentine; My Foolish Heart; He's Gone; Black Orpheus; Half Moon in a Blue Sky; Dorothee.
Personnel: Mariano: alto saxophone; Jean-Christophe Cholet: piano; Heiri Känzig: bass; Marcel Papaux: drums.
The Door Is Open
Tracks: Vaya; Drum 'n' Bass; Kyoung Ah's Dance; Folk Song; Bibimbap; Offering; Native Son; Prana; Zaku; For J.F.; Boys Night Out; Street of Dreams. .
Personnel: Julian F. Thayer: bass; Mariano: alto saxophone; Klaus Suonsaari: drums.
The Great Concert: Stuttgart
Tracks: Crystal Bells; The Quiet American; Randy; Mute; L'Éternel Désir; Plum Island.
Personnel: Mariano: alto saxophone; Jasper van' t Hof: piano; Phillip Catherine: guitar.