While jazz is credited with many "died too young" stories, thankfully for every Charlie Parker story there is a Hadley Caliman to balance the scales. At 78 years young, this veteran tenor saxophonist is putting on a big comeback, releasing three strong records in as many years. A graduate of the School of Hard Knocks himself, as well as a former Central Avenue regular (Caliman played alongside such greats as Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray), Caliman spent the greater part of the past 20 years teaching at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Now that he's retired from academics and un-retired from the jazz world, he's putting out the best music of his career. Reunion
teams up Caliman with the tough tenor of Pete Christlieb, one of the most accomplished and versatile tenor saxophonists in the biz over the past four decades. While you might think that this is yet another ringside seat for two tenors locking horns, it's nothing of the sort. It's a sympathetic collaboration of two musicians who both possess a distinctive tone and a natural sense of adventure.
Caliman's sound is a shade more tentative and introverted compared to the bold, confident tone of Christleib, so you can feel the braiding of a melody and the push and pull of counterpoint as they take on a wide ranging set of compositions. Whether smoking through pianist Bill Anschell's "Little Dex" (an early Caliman nickname), negotiating the waltz styled patterns of Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring" or settling back into "Love For Sale", what you hear on Reunion is the sound of two musicians who are comfortable in their own skins. So while the record is full of energy, it's not the kind of nervous energy you'd experience with a younger jazz tandem. These guys have the confidence, the know-how and the experience to make anything sound good.
Listen here as they parry and thrust through a two-chord vamp entitled "Gala". Stick with it and you'll hear some suprising moments as well as stellar work by Anschell on piano, Chuck Deardof on bass and John Bishop on drums.
I should also mention that the disc also contains very worthwhile liner notes by jazz writer Thomas Conrad that help color in the details of the lives of these two great tenor saxophonists. You can purchase Reunion
at the Origin Records website or the usual online retailers.