In 2003, saxophonist Charlie Mariano and New On the Corner, a trio comprised of drummer Bill Elgart, double bassist Rudi Engel, and pianist Bernhard Pichl, joined the Würzburg Philharmonic to release Not Quite a Ballad on Germany’s Intuition Records. The live recording made 21 July 2000 in Würzburg, Germany is only the second time Charlie Mariano realized a long stated desire to play with a symphony orchestra.
The album includes “Adagio,” “Plum Island,” “Yagapriya,” “Vesti la giubba,” the title track, “The Next Last Wave,” “Lopin’,” “Candy Lip,” and “You Better Go Now.”
Four tracks are composed by Charlie Mariano with one apiece by Albinoni, R.A. Ramamani, Ruggero Leoncavallo, and Graham-Reichner. In addition Peter Fulda has one composition plus he arranged two others.
“Adagio,” the opening track composed by Albinoni, arranged by Jonathan Seers, is on YouTube:
Charlie Mariano’s long interest in music of the Indian subcontinent—a region he first visited to study the South Indian wind instrument the nadaswaram in the early 1970s, is heard in “Yagapriya,” a piece by Indian composer and vocalist R.A. Ramamani that was arranged by Peter Fulda. Pianist Fulda, who has recorded several albums with Bill Elgart, also composed “The Next Last Wave” as well as doing arrangements on “Candy Lip.”
In the CD booklet accompanying the album, Jonathan Seers explains:
“The first half of this work is a gigantic tampura or free improvisation by the soloist over a changing “bordun” in the orchestra. The second half is rhythmically defined, but in 7/4 time. The notes are all pitched within one single, unchanging scale.”
An album cut of “Yagapriya” is not currently found online, however a live performance of this track that features Charlie Mariano and players not on the 2003 LP is located HERE.
Charlie Mariano’s composition “Plum Island,” the second track, is here:
Seers continues in the extensive liner notes:
“Charlie’s Italian roots, and the fact that he often heard arias at home in his younger days are the reason for the arrangements from the aria “Vesti la giubba” from I Pagliacci, and from Albinoni’s “Adagio” which we hear [above].
“Vesti la giubba,” composed by Rugger Leoncavallo, the fourth track, is on YouTube:
Besides Not Quite a Ballad, Bill Elgart and alto sax player Charlie Mariano, fellow Americans from Massachusetts who both later moved to Europe in the 1970s, made at least three other records together.
This includes bassist Carlo Mombelli and Charlie Mariano’s Happy Sad in 1990, which also features Peter O’Mara, and Carlo Mombelli’s Abstractions’ Dancing In A Museum in 1993, with guitarist Mick Goodrick. Both albums were released on the ITM label.
In 2005, Bill Elgart played with Charlie Mariano on Sadao Watanabe’s Sadao & Charlie Again album released by Victor the following year. Recorded live at the Nagoya Blue Note, the CD also include Bob Degen on piano and Dieter Ilg on double bass.
Charlie Mariano’s composition, “Not Quite A Ballad,” the title track, is here:
At this time, these are the only album cuts from Not Quite a Ballad found online. The album is available in CD format from music retailers including Discogs and as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and similar online sellers.
More Music from Charlie Mariano and Bill Elgart
A pair of tracks from the two albums Charlie Mariano and Bill Elgart played on together prior to making Not Quite a Ballad are on SoundCloud, including “Remember Lucia” from Carlo Mombelli and Charlie Mariano’s Happy Sad and the title track from the Dancing In A Museum.
In addition, three cuts from Sadao Watanabe’s 2006 album Sadao & Charlie Again were recently uploaded to the Internet for the first time. This site intends to take a closer look at this CD next month.
A new collection of music drawn from the two earlier albums Charlie Mariano and Bill Elgart made with Carlo Mombelli in the early 1990s, Somewhere, Out There, was also released in 2006 on the New Edition label.
Sadao Watanabe’s “Call Me” from Sadao & Charlie Again, with Charlie Mariano on alto sax, Bob Degen on piano, Bill Elgart on drums, and Dieter Ilg on double bass is on YouTube:
More Music from Charlie Mariano and R.A. Ramamani
In 1983, Charlie Mariano and the Karnataka College Of Percussion made an album, Jyothi that featured R.A. Ramamani.
The LP released by ECM Records has been reissued in CD.
Charlie Mariano and the Karnataka College Of Percussion performing R.A. Ramamani’s “Varshini,” with the composer also playing tambura and vocals, is on YouTube:
Among the many Indian-inspired musical works of Charlie Mariano is Charlie Mariano’s Bangalore, an album that again features vocalist R.A. Ramamani. The album was released by Intuition Records in 1998.
One of this correspondent’s favorites Indian-themed albums Charlie Mariano played on is Geoff Goodman’s Tabla & Strings: Song Of Nature released on the TUTU label in 2008.
Unfortunately, none of the tracks are online at the moment. However, “Pulse” from Charlie Mariano’s Bangalore Featuring Ramamani album is on YouTube.
Charlie Mariano’s “Pulse,” featuring vocalist R.A. Ramamani, is here:
Emerged from the Boston Jazz Scene in the 1940s
Charlie Mariano’s legendary career began in the Boston area when he first began playing in show bands in the early 1940s.
Two albums he recorded in Massachusetts in the early 1950s were Charlie Mariano Boston All Stars and The New Sounds From Boston, both on the Prestige label.
In 2009, the two albums were reissued on a single CD.
“I’m Old Fashioned,” composed by Jerome Kern, which first appeared on the album Charlie Mariano Boston All Stars in 1953, includes Bernie Griggs on bass, Herb Pomeroy on trumpet, Dick Twardzik on piano, Jimmy Weiner on drums, and Mariano on alto saxophone:
During the 1950s, Charlie Mariano also played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and in one of Stan Kenton’s Big Bands. It is in this period he also met and married pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi.
The two formed the Toshiko Mariano Quartet in 1960.
Charlie Mariano and Toshiko Akiyoshi’s “Haru No Umi (The Sea in Spring)” is on SoundCloud:
And one final track from Charlie Mariano, “Celia,” recorded in 1963.
Charlie Mariano’s “Celia,” with Don Butterfield, Jaki Byard, Dick Hafer, Quentin Jackson, Charles Mingus, Eddie Preston, Jerome Richardson, Dannie Richmond, and Richard Wilson is currently online: