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Hadley Caliman: Straight Ahead

Dan McClenaghan By

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Seattle-based tenor saxophonist, Hadley Caliman took a thirty year hiatus from recording before he released Gratitude (Origin Records, 2008). It was an exceptional mainstream set that displayed Caliman's John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Joe Henderson influences, in hints and brief whispers, and reintroduced the saxophonist's own distinctive, full-of-life voicings.

With Straight Ahead, he steps out further into that territory, with a group of Origin Records all-stars on board to give a modern tinge to a tried-and-true format.

The disc's Straight Ahead title, and a lineup of piano/bass/drums rhythm team with a saxophone and trumpet out front recalls the sixties Blue Note Records sound, and that's accurate here. But there's a modernization of sorts, with Eric Verlinde's quirky/pretty, ebullient piano playing, joined in the rhythm section by bassist Phil Sparks, an Origin Records stalwart who stays deep in the pocket beside drummer Matt Jorgensen, who lays down grooves and weaves loose textures.

"Cigar Eddie," a Caliman original, opens the set with a rollicking piano intro followed by on some clean two horn harmony. Trumpeter Thomas Marriott joins the leader in the front line, blowing with a clean, crisp tone before a Caliman solo blossoms out of the sonic landscape like a surly—but beautiful—wild flower, prickly thorns on its stem.

The Coltrane influence is heard on a pair of Trane vehicles, Billy Strayhorn's lovely "Lush Life" and Weisman/Garrett/Lane's "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes." The former is an intimate, late night piano/sax conversation, the latter a sparkling, up-tempo ensemble romp, with Verlinde rolling into a brief ride on "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top."

Trumpeter Marriott contributes "Cathlemet," an upbeat tune with a fluid vibe. The trumpeter's solo gleams over a shimmering harmony, in front of Sparks' muscular bass. Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole" has the Blue Note Records signature written all over it, in a no frills, straight-up script, with Caliman sounding especially energetic and inspired.

After three decades away from the recording studio, saxophonist Hadley Caliman has his second straight CD hit in two years with Straight Ahead.

Track Listing: Cigar Eddie; Rapture; You Leave Me Breathless; Cathlamet; Blues for PT; Lush Life; Totem Pole; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.

Personnel: Hadley Caliman: tenor saxophone; Thomas Marriott: trumpet; Eric Verlinde: piano; Phil Sparks: bass; Matt Jorgensen: drums.

Title: Straight Ahead | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Origin Records

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