1. Crystal Bells
2. The Quiet American
5. L'Eternel Desir
6. Plum Island
Charlie Mariano - Alto sax
Philip Catherine - Guitars
Jasper van't Hof - Piano
This is an unusual concert from an unusual line-up, and it is one
of the last albums that Charlie Mariano recorded before his sad death
in June. The trio of instruments - saxophone, guitar and piano - may
seem unconventional but these three men had played together since
the 1970s - first as part of the jazz-rock group Pork Pie and then
as a trio. So these three are comfortable with one another and they
exemplify an admirable international concord as they are respectively
an American, an Englishman brought up in Belgium, and a Dutchman.
At the time of this concert in Stuttgart's Theaterhaus, Charlie Mariano
was 84 and he had already suffered several bouts of serious illness.
Yet his playing often has a wild fierceness about it - almost as if
he is raging against the dying of the light. Occasionally his ascents
into very high notes become rather painful, but he was still an expressive
and gifted player. This is the side of Charlie Mariano that we heard
when he worked for Charles Mingus in the early 1960s. Yet Mariano
can also play with fragile delicacy on ballads like Randy,
while still conveying fervent emotion.
The ferocity of Mariano's playing is balanced by the gentleness of
Philip Catherine's guitar, which betrays hints of another guitarist
from Belgium: Django Reinhardt. But he is a versatile musician, and
he also reminds me at times of Jan Akkerman - not surprisingly, as
Catherine played with Focus, the group that brought fame to Akkerman.
Sample Philip's virtuosity on L'Eternel Desir.
Pianist Jasper van't Hof has a light touch which can produce cascades
of notes like drops from a waterfall. Listen to his glittering solo
on The Quiet American, which sounds like a dozen streams flowing
together. Plum Island proves that he can be loud as well as
soft, assertive as well as reticent.
As a result of this mixture of styles, the music is simultaneously
intense and contemplative. The guitarist and pianist fill out the
sound so that the trio can resemble a full orchestra. All the tunes
on the album were written by members of the trio, so they may be new
to anyone unfamiliar with these musicians - but the playing is so
beguiling that the tunes soon seem like old friends.
Charlie Mariano - another great jazz musician - is dead. But his
music lives on.