Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mike Mainieri: Crescent

NYC Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.07.10
Buy CD: Crescent

This double-CD release features three master musicians who, despite their prowess, remain relatively unknown outside the music world's inner circle.

Mike Mainieri is one of the finest living vibraphonists; Charlie Mariano — who, alas, died last year — was equally rated on his instrument, the alto sax; and Dieter Ilg is an outstanding bassist, far better known throughout Europe than in the States.

The album is a tribute to two jazz legends: Mariano, who died not long after the recording session; and the incomparable tenor saxman John Coltrane.

Mainieri and Mariano performed together many times, but this is their sole collaborative recording. The decision to utilize Ilg was fortuitous; his style blends perfectly with theirs, resulting in one of the most beautiful and tasteful albums I've ever heard. The word “beautiful” isn't a frequently used adjective when referring to jazz, but it's a perfect descriptor for this recording.

And it also swings: quietly, yes, but marvelously. Amazingly, this album was recorded without rehearsals or written arrangements, and most of the tracks were done on a single take. Only two relatively short sessions were spent to produce this masterpiece.

That's true talent.

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