Charlie Mariano-From Bop to Fusion to India to Gone

Saxophonist Charlie Mariano passed at  86 on June 16, 2009

Deep in a Dream Charlie Mariano was a second tier bop saxophonist with a biting, post-Charlie Parker sound who later showed the influence of John Coltrane and became enthralled with eastern music.   In addition to his saxophones, he started  playing an obscure, oboe-like instrument from India called the nagaswarum.  Mariano came to renown with Stan Kenton in the 1950s, played with Charles Mingus on Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and married big band leader Toshiko Akiyoshi, with whom he played for several years.

In 1967 Mariano took a left turn and started playing fusion before there was any such thing.  He had a band called Osmosis that released one album in 1970 of mixed success on RCA.  That was how I first saw Mariano.  He was playing with the group on a WGBH-TV show called Mixed Bag that had a lot of Boston jazz acts on.  Mariano was playing the nagaswaram, which almost reached the floor and my recollection is he wore a ski mask throughout the performance.  I always had the suspicion that Mariano, then a teacher at Berklee, was trying to hide his identity from the jazz purists.  That’s complete speculation on my part, but it was enough to get me hooked on him.

Helen 12 Trees I followed Mariano throughout the 70s and 80s when he moved to Europe and began playing with jazz fusion groups like Embryo, Pork Pie and Association P.C. His best late period work with German bassist Eberhard Weber in his Colours group and the last time I saw Mariano live was at a gig with Weber at Stars in Philadelphia in the late 1970s, I think.  Helen 12 Trees was among his best late solo albums.

In many ways, Charlie Mariano was my introduction into jazz, albeit in a roundabout Osmosis way.

All Music Guide has a nice bio of Charlie.

There’s also a great tribute page, Charlie Mariano Tribute,  with an exhaustive discography

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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