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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Great Concert

Enja ENJ 9532-2



1. Crystal Bells
2. The Quiet American
3. Randy
4. Mute
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.

Tony Augarde 

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