Mike Mainieri: Crescent (2010)
Nearly forty-five years after the death of John Coltrane, jazz players still feel compelled to negotiate his music. Young cats wrestle with the harmonic complexities and attempt to conquer the saxophonist icon's mighty energy. Luckily, players like vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and saxophonist Charlie Mariano have made peace with the legend. Their document, in this two-disc set, is a fitting tribute to both the music of Coltrane and Mariano, for this was to be one of his last recordings before passing away in 2009.
Mainieri and longtime friend Mariano conceived and recorded this session with bassist Dieter Ilg in 2005. Mariano, a bebop protege in the 1950s, would play with Stan Kenton, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charles Mingus, before exploring fusion and Indian music. Like Coltrane, his graduation from bebop was one into the possibilities of a universal sound.
Mainieri played with Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wes Montgomery. His prestige was earned as founder of Steps Ahead, with Michael Breckera unique and innovative fusion band. Later he turned producer and label chief with NYC Records, releasing Twelve Pieces (NYC, 2009) with guitarist Marnix Busstra's quartet.
Crescent covers half Coltrane originals and half music identified with Trane's career. With a relaxed command of the material, the pair trades brief solos throughout, smiling at the unclenched amity of the meeting. Even a song like "Giant Steps" receives the chilled-out treatment. The bass line opening gives way to an almost tension-less rendition. Like the 1959 original, the pair makes the complex seem effortless, Mainieri and Mariano's familiarity breeding respect. Whether levitating on the title track or gliding with the beautiful "Naima," the pair makes captivating and heavenly music.
Like Coltrane's music, it isn't critical they cover only his originals. The six other tracks are tunes widely associated with Trane, plus an affectionate cover of "America." Playing Cole Porter's "I Love You," Jimmy Van Heusen's "Like Someone In Love," and Ray Henderson's "Bye Bye Blackbird" the pair (with Ilg as steady companion) opt for a gentle swing and nodding "how do you do." All grippingly beautiful, Crescent is a sumptuous recording.
Track Listing: CD1: Mr. Syms; Like Someone In Love; I Love You; Wise One; Nancy; Ole; Naima. CD2: Crescent; Miles' Mode; What's New; Giant Steps; Body And Soul; America.
Personnel: Mike Mainieri: vibraphone; Charlie Mariano: alto saxophone; Dieter Ilg: double-bass.