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Charlie Mariano: Not Quite a Ballad

The durable Charlie Mariano, blowing his way toward 81, sounds like a Bird disciple half that age on his new release, Not Quite a Ballad (Intuition). Mariano has done everything he’s wanted to in his remarkable career: he’s worked with jazz icons from Charles Mingus and Stan Kenton to Dizzy Gillespie and his former wife Toshiko Akiyoshi; he returns periodically to teach at his alma mater, Berklee; and he occasionally revisits India to nourish his love affair with world music. Now that he’s been recording with the Wurzburg Philharmonic for the past decade, another dream has been realized.

An outstanding jazz trio, New on the Corner (bassist Rudi Engel nearly steals the show with his solo on the title tune) lends a concerto grosso feel to the mix. Mariano is really in his element juxtaposing his jazz conception over the legitimate backing on Albinoni’s “Adagio” and Leoncavallo’s “Vesti La Giubba” (you know, “Pagliacci”), but the highlight is a 12-minute Peter Fulda arrangement of “Yagapriya,” an Indian work in 7/4 built entirely on the A-flat minor scale.

Originally Published