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Charlie Mariano: Deep In a Dream

Who can forget Charlie Mariano’s passionate alto playing throughout Charles Mingus’ 1963 album, The Back Saint and the Sinner Lady? Mingus said the saxophonist innately knew tears of sound were required. Today, nearly 80, Mariano remains fully capable of soulful performances full of tears, as he shows throughout the ballad-oriented Deep in a Dream.

Although he lives in Cologne and this album was recorded in the Netherlands, it represents a return to his Boston roots. After working in the ’50s with Stan Kenton’s orchestra and in the ’60s co-leading a quartet with pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi (his wife at the time), Mariano began to explore fusion, pop and Indian and Oriental folk music. For the last 35 years, his immersion in world music has overshadowed his bebop beginnings.

Throughout the CD, Mariano’s dry, slightly pinched tone and slow vibrato give a more reflective than effusive connotation to the word “soulful.” He uses the altissimo register a lot, and it sounds halfway between Paul Desmond’s coolness and David Sanborn’s edginess, but it seems as natural as a singer’s extended range.

Accompanied by the mood-setting trio of pianist Bob Degen, bassist Isla Eckinger and drummer Jarrod Cagwin, Mariano languishes over the melody of “I’m a Fool to Want You” and then follows with his best solo of the date, a sometimes careening, thoroughly blues-infused, bop-based outpouring. “Spring Is Here,” taken at a faster clip, is also close to the heart of bebop. “Dew Drops,” a Mariano original, conveys a sylvan, peaceful Oriental mood, a reminder of the effectiveness of his world-music impressions. Other romantic selections on this album include the standards “You Better Go Now,” “I Only Miss Her When I Think of Her,” “The Touch of Your Lips,” “Close Enough for Love,” “Yours Is My Heart Alone” and the title track.

Originally Published