Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

248

Charlie Mariano: Not Quite a Ballad

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Octogenarian saxophonist Charlie Mariano has spent a lifetime blurring boundaries. One of the few remaining witnesses of the bebop era, he has spent the early part of his career in that arena. In the mid-'60s he began experimenting with fusion, recording arguably his best work in that genre with bassist Eberhard Weber's groundbreaking Colours band in the '70s. Throughout he has had a passion for music of other cultures, spending time in India learning the nadhaswaram, a South Indian wind instrument. His immersion in Indian culture is well-documented on the '83 ECM recording Jyothi. In recent years, however, he has become more associated with the mainstream, although his broader interests never seem to be far away. With Not Quite a Ballad he marks another achievement'a recording with a concert orchestra'and the result combines the expected with an element of pure surprise.

Along with the Wurtzburger Philharmonic, under the direction of conductor Jonathan Seers, Mariano is supported by New on the Corner, a trio consisting of pianist Bernard Pichl, double-bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Bill Elgart. While both the orchestra and the trio deliver everything that is expected of them and more, this is really Mariano's show and he is understandably front and centre for its majority.

An adaptation of Albinoni's "Adagio" is a fitting introduction, reflecting Mariano's Italian roots. Another classical reworking, that of the aria "Vesti la Giubba" from Leoncavallo's I, Pagliacci , demonstrates how Mariano can deliver an interpretation that is dramatic without being melodramatic. His rich tone and invention permeate both pieces. The orchestration is lush without being cloying; sentimental without being syrupy.

Four pieces for Mariano with New on the Corner alone highlight Mariano's sense of adventure, even within a mainstream context. The title track is aptly named; the melody would lend itself to being a ballad if it weren't for the more medium-tempo swing of the rhythm section. Mariano's tone is strong and expressive; age seems to be doing nothing to diminish his power.

The highlight of the album is clearly Indian composer Ramamani's "Yagapriya," where the orchestra comfortably navigates the microtonal nature of Indian music. The first half is a free improvisation, or tampura, by Mariano over the orchestra's changing "bordun" form; the second, in 7/4 time, is structured around a single scale, but Peter Fulda's orchestration again creates a broad sense of drama that is exhilarating without being overstated.

The marriage of jazz soloists and orchestras can be risky. The inherent structure required of the orchestra can detract from the spirited improvisational nature of the soloist. Thankfully, in this case, Mariano and orchestrator Fulda understand the intentions and requirements of both soloist and orchestra, creating an amalgam which successfully brings out the strengths of both. Not Quite a Ballad is another high point in Mariano's career; a recording that shows that, even though he is in his 80s, he is as vital and exhuberant as ever.

Visit Intuition Music on the web.


Track Listing: Adagio; Plum Island; Yagipriya; Vesti La Giubba; Not Quite a Ballad; The Next Last Wave; Lopin'; Candy Lip; You Better Go Now

Personnel: Charlie Mariano (saxophone)
New on the Corner: Bernard Pichl (piano), Rudi Engel (double-bass), Bill Elgart (drums)
Wurtzburger Philharmonic, Jonathan Seers conducting.

Title: Not Quite a Ballad | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Intuition

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Ten Billion Versions of Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Ten Billion Versions of Reality
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Peninsular" CD/LP/Track Review Peninsular
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Chasing the Unicorn" CD/LP/Track Review Chasing the Unicorn
by Paul Rauch
Published: September 6, 2017
Read "The Harry Warren Song Book" CD/LP/Track Review The Harry Warren Song Book
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 31, 2017
Read "E.S.T. Symphony" CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Dreaming Big" CD/LP/Track Review Dreaming Big
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 12, 2017