Pete Christlieb/Warne Marsh Quintet: Apogee (2004)
Apogee plays in a hard-bop format you almost never hear any more: saxophonists Marsh and Christleib screaming twin tenors in a quintet with piano (Lou Levy), bass (Jim Hughart) and drums (Nick Ceroli), immensely aided by several loose yet tight arrangements by Joe Roccisano. Of course, you almost never heard this format when Apogee was originally released in 1978, either.
Christleib “worked the saxophone” in “Deacon Blues” for Steely Dan on its pop breakthrough, Aja ; co-leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen returned the favor by contributing “Rapunzel” and producing Apogee. Levy recalls: “Without their juice, the record would have never come out on a major label. They were hip patrons.”
It is impossible to distinguish one man’s tenor from the other: sometimes they swing in unison, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes in duet or counterpunching, but they are always strong, meaty and powerful. They play as if musically ravenous, with pianist Levy somehow managing to feed them chords to gnaw on while the bass and drum rock on. Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” sure sounds like a spirited ol’ gal, especially when she dances and twirls with Levy, who takes other sparkling solo turns in “I’m Old Fashioned,” “317 E. 32nd” by Lennie Tristano (Marsh’s mentor) and “Rapunzel.”
An old-fashioned cutting contest complete with a frantic saxophone “chase scene,” “Tenors of the Time” is taken at an almost ridiculous, blistering tempo, and from the band’s collective energy and intelligence turns into music quite timeless.
Track Listing: Magna-Tism; 317 E. 32nd; Rapunzel; Tenors of the Time; Donna Lee; I'm Old Fashioned; Lunarcy; Love Me; How About You
Personnel: Pete Christlieb, tenor saxophone; Warne Marsh, tenor saxophone; Lou Levy, piano; Jim Hughart, bass; Nick Ceroli, drums.