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Charlie Mariano: Savannah Samurai

Glenn Astarita By

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75 years young and blowing with the conviction and intensity of a hot to trot saxophonist straight out of music school, the venerable Charlie Mariano returns in glowing fashion.

Revered for his versatility and willingness to explore besides being an influential stylist, Mariano along with guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Dieter Ilg and drummer Jeff Hirshfield bridge the gap between straight-ahead and exploratory jazz. The opener, Mariano’s “Children’s Steps” is cheerfully melodic and upbeat while the Vic Juris composition, “Luna Doone” features Mariano’s gorgeous, signature style lyricism on soprano sax supported by Juris’ lush acoustic guitar work. Juris’ “Dark Alley” is a swift paced post-bop number as Mariano on alto sax stretches out with Juris who utilizes his electric guitar. Here, Mariano and Juris are a perfect match whether in call and response mode or stating the melodies in unison. Juris works well with saxophonists, which is well documented and illustrated with his long-standing relationship with David Liebman. The title track, Dieter Ilg’s “Savannah Samurai” commences with a New Orleans funk-shuffle beat courtesy of the potent rhythm section. “Savannah Samurai” serves as a good example of how Mariano, whether performing mainstream, free-jazz or East Indian music constructs and maintains beautiful melodies through meticulous and emotional lyricism. Charlie Mariano is a master at stretching or bending notes besides displaying fluency and overall superior craftsmanship.

The collaborative composition, “Climate Suite” is a multi-textured, multi-layered affair, which touches on free-jazz, mainstream and ethnocentric motifs. On this series of compositions, the group interplay is generally probing and filled with bountiful dialogue. The “Climate Suite” may stand as a testament of sorts to Mariano’s storied past within the jazz world as an innovator and experimentalist. Savannah Samurai is a welcome edition to Mariano’s vast and impressive discography and should thrill many of those who have been yearning for something new from this legendary master of the saxophone. * * * *

In North America, the Allegro Corporation distributes Jazzline recordings.


Title: Savannah Samurai | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Jazzline Records

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