All of Europe loved this sound: The saxophone, the passion, the irascible pain, the tears of lava - the Mariano sound. This unmistakable sound has accompanied us for decades in jazz bands, rock bands, world music bands, Shelly Manne’s cool jazz quintet, and in the red hot music of Charles Mingus, Pork Pie, Embryo, The United Jazz & Rock Ensemble, Eberhard Weber’s Colors, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Konstantin Wecker, The Karnataka College and in countless other small, intimate, highly personal bands.
The smallest, most intimate was the duo with Dieter Ilg – just saxophone and bass. Almost too private to reach any outside ears. Too intensive to simply check it off and file it away as just an ordinary musical experience. Charlie Mariano and Dieter Ilg were brotherly partners for almost a decade, on and off the stage, until just very recently when Mariano passed away. “Later, this duo will be called legendary”, a music magazine wrote five years ago. “Later” is today.
It is easy to understand what is happening in this music, just impossible to put into words. Already with the first few notes of “Randy”, a door is opened into a room where the listener has rarely entered. Every note has its own meaning and its own life as does every breath, every silent note, and every reverberation. Seemingly without transition, the alto sax breaks from a meditative into an expressive, almost furious state, volcanically rising into “the high Himalayan region” as Dieter Ilg once expressed it. He always found the duo constellation with Charlie Mariano to be both hard and easy at the same time: It was easy to make musical sense with Charlie without any distractions, worrying who the band leader was. It was hard as a bassist “to be challenged every second being perceived as the harmony and rhythm accompanying instruments – like the piano and drums- while playing the four strings of the bass. To fill everything that there was to fill and not to say what was not to be said.” Here Dieter Ilg plays the necessary, the possible, the correct. The inspiration never lets up – gentle and burning.
It is beautiful that this legendary (now historical) duo has been finally captured – pure, vibrant and complete with the technical devotion of a sound enthusiast. A kind of epilogue – a finale and epitaph in every respect – “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” performed in the chapel of Solitude Palace near Stuttgart. The music comes from a different sounding hall – a farewell hall. Charles Mingus composed this half blues, half ballad piece as a musical obituary to Lester Young, the great saxophone hero of swing, bop and cool jazz. Many musicians of Charlie Mariano’s generation spent their life playing only bop and cool jazz. For Mariano, however, the music of his early years was more of a stepping-stone to other musical worlds - into Europe and India. Even more moving is that he returned here to the musical funeral oration of the bassist Mingus, in the essential reduction to sax and bass. When Charlie tells us the story of Lester on the sax, he tells the story of all great saxophonists. Also his own.
- Hans-Jürgen Schaal, liner notes