Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb: Reunion

This was Hadley Caliman’s last recording before his death of liver cancer in September. Recorded with his old friend and fellow tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb in November 2009, it finds Caliman in high spirits and full energy. It’s a very good, mainstream jazz album featuring that comforting stalwart, the tenor battle. The styles of the two, who hadn’t recorded together since they worked in Los Angeles’ Central Avenue jazz scene in the ’60s, complement each other perfectly.

The tunes span the Dexter Gordon homage “Little Dex” (an early nickname for Caliman), Caliman’s hot “Comencio” (nice twined horns up front), a pretty take on Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring,” Caliman’s darkling, romantic “Gala,” and pianist Bill Anschell’s knowing “Wide Stance,” a tune that would have been a perfect fit for the Farmer-Golson Jazztet.

Caliman’s conception is broader and warmer than the tighter, more concentrated Christlieb. Same for tone; while both came into their own in the ’60s, Christlieb’s conception seems more modern, where Caliman’s is rooted in Dex, Bird, even Coleman Hawkins. Not that any of these tracks is cutting-edge, but that’s not the point. “Reunion” is about connection and affirmation rather than pushing the envelope.

Still, there’s contemporaneity and spontaneity. One of the best tracks is a fast version of “Love for Sale” that transforms that sentimental favorite into something fresh and exciting. All in all, a sturdy, satisfying album.