In 2006, alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe released Sadao & Charlie Again on Japan’s Victor label, featuring Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, Bob Degen on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums. The album is an unofficial sequel to Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano’s earlier LPs, Charlie Mariano & Sadao Watanabe and Iberian Waltz, both recorded in 1967.
The showcase for the saxophone legends includes four compositions by Sadao Watanabe, “Tokyo Darling,” “Memórias,” “Call Me,” and “One For You,” and a pair by Charlie Mariano, “Plum Island” and “Lopin’.” The CD release also has Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie Lanage’s “Deep in a Dream,” Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song,” and “Por toda a minha vida” from Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes.
The album was recorded 13 December 2005 live at the Nagoya Blue Note in Nagoya, Japan.
Sadao Watanabe’s composition “Call Me,” featuring Charlie Mariano and Watanabe on alto saxophone, Bod Degen on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums, is on YouTube:
In an interview by George Kanzler posted on the All That Jazz website on 28 September 2008, Sadao Watanabe commented on his relationship with Charlie Mariano:
“Charlie and I go back to 1967. He stayed at my house in Japan for a couple of months and we did tours together all over Japan and recorded too.
I learned so much from Charlie. Bird was my idol and Charlie’s too, but most of my Bird influence came from Charlie Mariano.
We finally got together for a reunion and I recorded our gig at the Nagoya Blue Note for my radio show, then put it out as a CD, Sadao & Charlie Again.”
Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie Lanage’s “Deep in a Dream,” with Charlie Mariano and Watanabe on alto saxophone, Bob Degen on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums, is online:
The live recording made in Nagoya shares a back-to-the-basics ethos Sadao Watanabe has expounded upon in recent years. He comments in the 2008 All About Jazz interview:
“I wanted to get back to the basics, I want to play saxophone. I’ve started to love playing straight-ahead again.”
The shift away from more polished studio sounds is also seen in the 2008 double album Basie’s At Night, released by Koch Records.
Bill Elgart and Sadao Watanabe go back to their days as students at the Berklee College of Music.
Elgart recalls meeting Sadao Watanabe in the early 1960s:
“We met in Boston, around 1962 or 1963. I am not sure if it was when we were both at Berklee. It may have been after I had just left [after studying two semesters]. I remember playing gigs together with Sadao at clubs around the Boston area. The musicians called him ‘Nabe,’ an affectionate nickname. The jazz scene was lively, people like Sam Rivers, Jaki Byard, Hal Galper, Alan Dawson, Herb Pomeroy had a band… many Berklee instructors and students were regulars.
On making the Sadao & Charlie Again album in 2005:
Everyone was from Berklee, Sadao Watanabe, Charlie [Mariano], the pianist Bob [Degen], and myself. The bass player, Dieter Ilg, I think he knew Charlie from before. We went on tour in Japan, visiting six or seven cities. One of these dates was recorded for the album.”
The album is also now available as a digital download from iTunes and Amazon in most markets.
The third and final track from Sadao & Charlie Again currently found online is “Christmas Song.”
“Christmas Song,” composed by Mel Torme, features Charlie Mariano and Watanabe on alto saxophone, Bod Degen on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums:
Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano in 1967
In 1967, Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano recorded a pair of albums in Japan, Charlie Mariano & Sadao Watanabe on Victor and Iberian Waltz on the Takt Jazz Series label. Each albums has been reissued in Japan, the U.S., and several European countries.
The Charlie Mariano & Sadao Watanabe LP was renamed Nabesada And Charlie for the 1977 U.S. release on Catalyst Records.
The 1990 CD reissue by Victor also used the Nabesada And Charlie alternative title.
Charlie Mariano and Sadao Watanabe’s “Work Song,”recorded 27 June 1967 in Tokyo, features Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, 渡辺貞夫 Sadao Watanabe on alto saxophone and flute, 菊地雅章 Masabumi Kikuchi on piano, 原田政長 Masanaga Harada on bass, and 富樫雅彦 Masahiko Togashi on drums:
More Music from Sadao Watanabe
Born in Utsunomiya city in Tochigi prefecture in 1933, Sadao Watanabe grew up around music including his father who sang and played the biwa, a Japanese flute. In high school, Sadao Watanabe first started playing clarinet, crediting the 1941 musical Birth Of The Blues with inspiring this decision. After relocating to Tokyo at the age of 18, Sadao Watanabe began playing alto saxophone for the first time. During the next decade, he honed his skills in sessions with various groups including Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Cozy Quartet, which he assumed leadership of when she moved to the United States in 1956. In 1961, he released his first of more than sixty albums as a leader, Sadao Watanabe.
In 1962, Sadao Watanabe moved to the United States to study. His three year residence at the Berklee College of Music offered a chance to perform with the many of the top jazz musicians of the era including Gábor Szabó. He also recorded two albums during this period as a sideman, Chico Hamilton’s El Chico and Gary McFarland’s The In Sound, both released in 1965. Sadao Watanabe’s lifelong interest in Brazilian music began during the stay, as well. He recalls in the interview with George Kanzler in 2008:
When I was at Berklee I had a chance to join Gary McFarland and Chico Hamilton’s bands. Before that time I never had eyes for bebop, it was dull to me, but after a while I came to love it and Gary was a big reason for that. It was very lonely in my hotel rooms [when on tour] and I bought a [Tom] Jobim album; it made me start to love, besides jazz, Brazilian music.
It is during this time in Boston that Sadao Watanabe first met drummer Bill Elgart, a fellow student at Berklee–43 years later they recorded Sadao & Charlie Again. In 1967, Sadao Watanabe’s Jazz & Bossa helped fuel the Japanese Bossa Nova explosion.
Sadao Watanabe’s numerous festival appearances began at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode island in 1968. Among his notable albums in the following decade were Round Trip in 1970, with Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous, and Jack DeJohnette, and California Shower, recorded in Los Angeles in 1978 with another all-star line-up.
Another outstanding release is Sadao Watanabe with The Great Jazz Trio’s I’m Old Fashioned album from 1976, recently reissued in CD by East Wind. Appropriately, this album of classic, old school jazz was recorded at the Vanguard Studios in New York City.
The entire album, with Ron Carter on bass, Hank Jones on piano, Tony Williams on drums, and Sadao Watanabe on alto saxophone, is online:
After performing at the Budokan Recital in 1980, he embarked upon his first tour of America. With an eye on expanding his audience, Sadao Watanabe signed with WEA ion the early 1980s, recording a number of successful, highly regarded albums.
Throughout his musical career, Sadao Watanabe has always been interested in world culture, from Brazil to Kenya, where he started an FM radio program that ran 19 years. In 1997 he made his first trip to to Tibet and has performed charity concerts in many locations including Italy and Guam in the 2000s. In 2006, Sadao Watanabe made his first trip to Myanmar, where he performed with local children. Not surprisingly, the previous year, he was an executive producer of the Japanese government’s 2005 Exhibition Project advocates the message “World Peace” through music.
In 1977, Charlie Mariano and Toshiko Akiyoshi released East & West on RCA. The album features the same musicians on the pair of Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano albums from 1967.
“Stone Garden Of Ryoan Temple,” initially recorded on Iberian Waltz was re-imagined as “Stone Garden Of Ryoan Temple” on the 1977 album. The track below, although identified as the 1977 version, seems to be the one from the 1967 LP, instead.
Charlie Mariano’s “Stone Garden of Ryoani” with 渡辺貞夫 Sadao Watanabe on alto saxophone and flute, 菊地雅章 Masabumi Kikuchi on piano, 原田政長 Masanaga Harada on bass, and 富樫雅彦 Masahiko Togashi on drums, and Mariano on alto saxophone, is on YouTube:
Charlie Mariano and Bill Elgart: Four Albums from 1990 to 2006
Prior to recording Sadao & Charlie Again, Bill Elgart and Charlie Mariano made at least three albums together between 1990 and 2003, in addition to reissues of the music in new releases in 2006 and 2009.
The original albums of the fellow expatriates from Boston include bassist Carlo Mombelli and Charlie Mariano’s Happy Sad in 1990, which also features Peter O’Mara on guitar, and Carlo Mombelli’s Abstractions’ Dancing In A Museum in 1993, with guitarist Mick Goodrick. Both CDs were released by ITM Pacific.
This music was reissued twice, first on Charlie Mariano and Carlo Mombelli’s Somewhere, Out There album on the New Edition label in 2006.
In 2009, the music from Happy Sad and Dancing In A Museum was part of the double-volume Abstractions Retrospective 86 To 92 CD and download.
The title track from Carlo Mombelli’s Abstractions’s Dancing In A Museum (1993) with Bill Elgart on drums, Mick Goodrick on guitar, Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, and Mombelli on bass, which is also included on both the 1992 and 2009 reissues, is on SoundCloud:
In 2003, 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.
A closer look at this album as well as Happy Sad is found in the albums sections on this site.
The title track from Charlie Mariano’s Not Quite a Ballad album, featuring Bill Elgart on drums, Rudi Engel on bass, Bernhard Pichl on piano, and Mariano on alto saxophone, accompanied by the Würzburg Philharmonic, is here:
In the 1960s, Pennsylvania-born pianist Bob Degen attended the Berklee College of Music as well as being active on the Boston area jazz scene, a path identical to that of Sadao Watanabe and Bill Elgart–Charlie Mariano also attended the school when it was called the Schlesinger House of Music and then was a faculty member at Berkelee from 1965 to 1971.
Bob Degen played with multi-instrumentalist Art Kreinberg and bassist Doug Smith in a trio in Boston in the early 1960s. In the middle of the decade, he moved to Europe and played with Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer, and Albert Mangelsdorff, before recording his own album as a leader, Celebrations in 1968. In the late 1960s, Degen played with Paul Motian and Gary Peacock.
In the 1970s, Bob Degen relocated from America to Europe, like Charlie Mariano before him and Bill Egart about the same time. Among those he has worked since the move are Uli Beckerhoff, Joki Freund, Günter Lenz, Makaya Ntshoko, Adelhard Roidinger, Heinz Sauer, and Leszek Zadlo. In 2002, Bob Degen joined Charlie Mariano for his Deep In A Dream album on Enja Records.
Charlie Mariano’s “Close Enough For Love” featuring Bob Degen on piano, Isla Eckinger on bass, Jarrod Cagwin on drums, and Mariano on alto saxophone, is online:
Discovered by Joe Viera in 1979, bassist Dieter Ilg studied classical double bass with Wolfgang Stert from 1981 to 1986 at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. In the mid-1980, Ilg was awarded a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music.
Besides co-founding Klaus Ignatzek’s band, Dieter Ilg has toured Europe and America as a member of Randy Brecker’s quintet. Between 1991 and 2004, Ilg was in a quintet with Albert Mangelsdorff and Wolfgang Dauner.
Dieter Ilg has played with Rebekka Bakken, Joanne Brackeen, Till Brönner, Dave Friedman, Trilok Gurtu, Rolf Kühn, Christof Lauer, and Dhafer Youssef, among others. In 2015, his trio released Mein Beethoven on the Act label.
A trailer for Dieter Ilg’s latest album, Mein Beethoven, with Rainer Böhm on piano, Patrice Héral on drums, and Ilg on bass, is on YouTube:
personal website [English and Japanese]
And something special, a live performance of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Blue Monk” at the Tokyo Jazz Festival in 2006 featuring Hank Jones on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Omar Hakim on drums with guests Chick Corea, Hiromi Uehara, and Austin Peralta on piano, and Sadao Watanabe on alto saxophone: