As happens more often than not, two friends who spent much time together in early adulthood went their separate ways as the demands and opportunities of careers and families took priority. In the case of Pete Christlieb and Hadley Caliman, who performed together for two years at Marty's in Los Angeles in the 1960s, their separation was resolved when they met again in 2009 in Seattle to record, appropriately enough, a Reunion
Origin Records had already realized that Caliman's work on tenor sax deserved documentation, and the label released his album Gratitude
in 2008, 31 years after the last recording that Caliman led. In 2010, Origin released Caliman's Straight Ahead
album. In September 2010, Hadley Caliman succumbed to liver cancer, and so the circumstances of the reunion become even more appreciated and bittersweet.
During the saxophonists' engagement at Marty's, mentor Caliman groomed the precocious twenty-year-old Christlieb and taught him the intricacies of successful presentation before an audience, even as Christlieb and the gig gave Caliman purpose during his parole.
Although they engaged in mock tenor sax battles forty years ago, the reunion involves musicians in complementary harmonies, weaving support around a melody, as on "Up Jumped Spring," wherein Caliman virtually drifts into sonic presence as he establishes gentle colloquy.
Intuitive support transpires throughout "Comencio," a tune that Caliman wrote in prison and which still retains its fire, as expressed by the saxmen over the fast Latin rhythm set up by drummer John Bishop.
Despite the undiminished empathy between Caliman and Christlieb, their styles diverge in tone and intensity, no doubt as instrumental extensions of their personalities. And so, Reunion includes two solo performances, one for each saxophonist, as extended opportunities for appreciation of style developed over a third of a century. Caliman is all warmth and confident craftsmanship as he develops with poignancy "I Thought about You," from underplayed suspensions of notes to cascading embellishments upon melody to deeply felt and beautifully expressed improvisation. Christlieb too steps into the spotlight during his variation of "Darn That Dream," called "Dream On."
Contrasting the solo tracks reveals their differences in tone and actually in musical personalities, with Christlieb's approach more biting, raspier and incorporating more frequent Blues references.
For the Reunion, the rhythm section deserves much credit for enhancing the saxophonists' performances, contributing offsetting solos like pianist Bill Anschell's transitional improvisation between the statements of theme in the modally constructed "Gala," his work involving a long intensifying crescendo.
The Reunion between two long-time friends is a fulfilling experience not only for them, but also for listeners who fortunately can hear it via the recording.