Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet




“I'll learn to work the saxophone / I'll play just what I feel.” Reunion brings together two great players after 40 years apart. At once like zen warriors stalking each other, and like old friends talking over martinis, Caliman and Christlieb mine their rich personal histories, mutual and otherwise, to forge an album of West Coast Cool. On the Steely Dan track “Deacon Blues,” as Donald Fagen sings about working the saxophone – a track loaded with superstar sax players [Tom Scott, Wayne Shorter, Jim Horn, Bill Perkins, Plas Johnson, and Jackie Kelso], it is Pete Christlieb ripping the tenor solo throughout the song. Hadley Caliman was the older, wiser saxman who took Pete “under his wing” when Christlieb was only 20 years old and subbing in an LA jazz band. Hadley Caliman and Pete Christlieb go way back – back to the heyday of the Central Avenue Scene in 1950's and 60's Los Angeles. Caliman made an early name practically imitating Dexter Gordon; earning the nickname “Little Dex.” He was an L.A. session stalwart, got into drugs, into prison, and into Santana's band. He eventually cleaned up and settled in the Pacific Northwest, teaching for twenty years at the Cornish College of Arts. Caliman is a radiant West Coast Player with a bit of East Coast edge. Christlieb was a “string bean” kid subbing in Bobby Bryant's band. The kid had chops, but got his history and bandstand etiquette playing next to Caliman. Christlieb went on to play with Woody Herman among others, and spent 20 years with Doc Severinson's Tonight Show Band. Pianist Bill Anschell brings several original tunes including “Little Dex,” a tip of the hat to Caliman's early days. Each of our hosts brings a couple tunes. “Comencio” was written by Caliman in prison. He also brought the exotic, haunting “Gala.” The soulful “Dream On” and the burner “Nasty Green” both came from Christlieb. Beyond their pianist's other songs, they pick great covers in Cole Porters' “Love For Sale,” Freddie Hubbard's joyful “Up Jumped Spring,” and Johnny Mercer's “I Thought About You.” You'll be glad these two kindred spirits, long separated, have found each other again. Bookend “Wide Stance,” “Dream On,”or “Little Dex” with “Deacon Blues for a sweet time machine treat. “Love For Sale” is the Mother of all Sax Battles. Reviewed by Todd Townsend.

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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