Both Hadley Caliman and Pete Christlieb were active on Los Angeles jazz scene going on 50 years ago, and the two tenor saxophonists actually performed together at the time. Real life got in the way, guiding each man in his allotted direction. Origin Records' house pianist (and All About Jazz Contributor) Bill Anschell brought the two together for Reunion
, composing a good old fashioned cooker to open the disc.
"Little Dex" (after Dexter Gordon) is thus titled after the nickname given to Caliman on Central Avenue in LA. Anschell fashioned the piece on the Gershwin Brothers' "I Got Rhythm" changes, as was common back in the day. Never open with a ballad, and this is no ballad.
The beauty of this tenor madness is two vastly different approaches to the same instrument can be heard; Caliman and Christlieb's styles could not be more different. Christlieb plays the A sections in a tight, fast tone, approaching it like an alto horn. His solos are tart and thoughtfully constructed. Caliman, on the other hand, has a diffuse tone with potent momentum. His solos, played over the bridge B section, are full of age and pathos, vaguely recalling Dexter Gordon, without kneeling to mere imitation.
Discs like this are welcome additions to the mainstream-traditional bop repertoire.