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Charlie Mariano
DEEP IN A DREAM
(ENJA/JUSTIN TIME)
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For decades, Boston native Charlie Mariano, now 79, has been among the most consistently distinctive of jazz alto-saxophonists, experimenting with avant-garde Boston musicians Serge Chaloff and Jaki Byard 50 years ago, working with Stan Kentonís progressive bands in the 1950s, then teaming up with Japanese pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi to blend Asian and jazz forms. Here, however, he goes back to his roots with a program of ballads, some of them dating from the 1930s: the title track by Jimmy Van Heusen, Rodgers & Hartís "Spring Is Here," Ray Nobleís "The Touch of Your Lips," and Frank Sinatraís torch song for Ava Gardner, "Iím a Fool To Want You." Heís backed by pianist Bob Degen, who also does the arranging, bassist Isla Eckinger, and drummer Jarrod Cagwin. The two originals are Marianoís pentatonic, impressionistic "Dew Drops" and Degenís lush "Etosha," the latter an intense trio feature for Degen sans Mariano.

Marianoís playing is straightforward and lyrical; emphasizing song-like lines, he produces a dark, attractive tone to which he sometimes adds an edgy rasp, and his solo spots have fine continuity. Degen displays a firm touch, and his improvised lines likewise have a satisfying thematic coherence. Eckinger and Cagwin play with unobtrusive buoyancy, moving things along without drawing undue attention to themselves. Fans of Marianoís work during the bop and post-bop eras will welcome his return to that style of playing. Here he demonstrates that he still has the capability and the desire to play standards with the best of them.

BY HARVEY PEKAR


Issue Date: July 18 - 24, 2003
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