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Mike Mainieri: Crescent

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This inspired two-CD set matches the veteran vibraphonist with German bassist Dieter Ilg and 85-year-old sax legend Charlie Mariano. (The album constitutes one of Mariano’s last recordings, as he passed in June 2009.) A program devoted entirely to John Coltrane’s signature pieces and other tunes associated with the late tenor titan, Crescent features some magical interplay between the wily jazz elders on luminous renditions of “Mr. Syms” and “Wise One,” lush versions of “Like Someone in Love” and “Nancy With the Laughing Face” and stirring takes on “Ole,” “Miles’ Mode” and “Giant Steps,” the latter done as an affecting midtempo number underscored by Ilg’s buoyant tumbao groove.

Mariano’s pungent-toned alto work is agile, freewheeling and full of the sound of surprise, while the entire session is grounded with authority and a flawless time feel by Ilg’s humungous woody bass tones. The potent trio also turns in a swinging version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” that is full of frisky call-and-response and blues-infused soloing. Mainieri and Mariano unite for two poignant, touching duets on “Naima” and “America the Beautiful.”

Mainieri, a fusion pioneer with Jeremy & the Satyrs, White Elephant and later Steps Ahead, embraces these Trane staples and sublime standards like “What’s New?,” “Body and Soul” and “I Love You” with soulful restraint and a velvety touch. Like Trane and Mainieri, this release is classy and warmly inviting on the surface, yet teeming with improvisational daring.

Originally Published