Charlie Mariano Silver Blue Enja Records
There is much that is unique about the alto saxophone sound, the "voice," of Charlie Mariano. The word that perhaps best describes Mariano's sound is intimate. Not intimate in the erotic sensealthough the intensely romantic treatment on this album of standards such as "My Funny Valentine," "Theme From Black Orpheus" and "My Foolish Heart" might support that meaningbut intimate in the way the listener experiences Mariano's haunting, emotional sound.
From the first notes of the first track, "Prelude To A Kiss," Mariano is probing your soul, inviting you to open your receptors. His beautiful tone reaches deep, to a fundamental level, and it has been doing so since he came onto the jazz scene decades ago.
Supported by three of his favorite European musicians (the sensitive Jean-Christophe Cholet on piano, Heiri Kanzig on bass and Marcel Papaux on drums) Mariano's work here is "complete." This is not a front man backed up by more or less passive backing band; the aesthetic is instead that of a creative group in which each member pushes his colleagues' creativity to the limit. For a vivid example, delve into the marvellously expressive exchanges of tonal and rhythmic textures on "Half Moon In A Blue Sky." Simply beautiful. Beautifully simple.
Charlie Mariano, now over 80, is one of many jazz greats created in Boston's musical melting pot. He has been a revered but rather under-the-radar artist for decades. But talk to jazz altoists with knowledge of the instrument and its history and Mariano will often be ranked alongside some of the acknowledged greats of the instrumentCharlie Parker, Art Pepper, Sonny Stitt or Johnny Hodges.
This underexposure might be due to Mariano's longtime stays in Japan, the Far East and Europe after an extensive performing career in the U.S. with bandleaders Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne, Charles Mingus and others, and a teaching career at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Some of the students to whom Mariano was devoted include saxophonists Ernie Watts, Richie Cole, Thom Pastor and Pat Labarbera, all of whom went on to greatness themselves. Mariano's work in Europe, where he has resided for decades, includes stints with Pork Pie, the United Jazz And Rock Ensemble and bassist Eberhard Weber's Colours.
A master of his instument, and an explorer of other, saxophone-related instruments (including the Indian nagaswaram), on Silver Blue, Mariano displays his ability to shade volume and intensity to generate a veritable rainbow of colors and timbre. "Ages Ago" confirms the anointment of Mariano as a wizard of tonal textures. Understatement and restrainteven a certain coolnesspermeate the selections on this release. Yet Mariano can blow hot too, as he demonstrates with blues-tinged spice on "My Foolish Heart."
Part of the lineage of jazz alto saxophone greats, Mariano displays his roots proudly. Sweeping curves of pitch, always landing right on target, ring of Hodges. Flurries of beautifully constructed, but never unnecessary, lines pay direct homage to Parker. A profound lyricism is reminiscent of Pepper.
Ultimately, however, Mariano puts his own stamp on virtually every phrase in this disc. Silver Blue represents a culmination of an alto life that has a view for the future as well as a grip on the past.
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: Charlie Mariano: alto saxophone; Jean-Christophe Cholet: piano; Heiri Kanzig: bass; Marcel Papaux: drums.