Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 58: Charlie Mariano Boston All-Stars

Another undated December session, perhaps because they didn't keep detailed records in Boston -- but they did remember to get the names of the musicians and the tunes, which is what we really need. Charlie Mariano was a Boston native, and still primarily based in that city in 1951, In 1953 he would get out onto the national stage with the Kenton orchestra, and he'd remain a major for the next four decades, playing with, among others, Sheley Manne and Charles Mingus--and with Toshiko Akiyoshi, his wife from 1960-65. By the late 1960s -- back in Boston, teaching at the Berklee School of Music -- he had moved into jazz fusion, and by the early 1970s, he had moved to Europe, where he was to open up to a wide variety of musical experiments, including Asian music.

This, one of his earliest recording sessions, featured Boston musicians. some of who would also go on to larger stages. Trumpeter Joe Gordon played with Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver and others, before dying young in a house fire in 1963. Perhaps his most famous date was one that remained undiscovered until 1996 -- a radio broadcast from Boston, featuring Charlie Parker and a group either brought with him or picked up in Boston: Gordon, Dick Twardzik, Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes,

Dick Twardzik's radio gig with Charlie Parker led a discovery that the two of them shared a passion for Bartok, and to an intense and legendary collaboration with Bird -- legendary because almost none of it was ever recorded. Twardzik unfortunately had, as mentors, two of the leading heroin addicts of that time. On a European tour with Chet Baker, he died of an overdose in 1955.

Sonny Truitt is mostly known as a Boston musician, but he did some impressive work with Miles Davis, among others,

Anyway, this is an impressive group of musicians, and a wonderful album. The arrangements carry the liveliness of big band swing and the freshness of bebop, and the ensemble parts provide an excellent springboard for the solos. Almost all of the solo space is Mariano, and that's a good thing. As good as the other musicians (particularly Gordon) are, it's Mariano who really shines. There is a beautiful piano solo (Twartdzik?) on "Autumn in New York."

Maybe not Twardzik. Another website devoted specifically to Charlie Mariano only lists Frazee on piano (and gives the drummer's name as Gene Glennon, which a little more research confirms as correct), but the onine Encyclopedia of  Jazz Musicians unequivocally states that Twardzik played on the date.

The original compositions are strong, particularly "Boston Uncommon," though it's "The Wizard"
(b/w "Autumn in New York") that was released as the single. Not at all a bad choice. But "Tzoris" is an irresistible number, beginning with an almost jarringly sprightly couple of choruses of a traditional song that traditionally has nothing to with tzoris -- suggesting, instead, that you pack it up in your old kit bag. And from there, Mariano takes off on an improv that would make anyone forget his or her tzoris.

One single off the album, released on both Prestige and New Jazz. A ten-inch LP covered the whole session, and then nothing till a much later reissue on Original Jazz Classics.

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