Legendary west coast saxophonist Hadley Caliman made his mark by touring and recording with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Santana. For Gratitude, his first recording as a leader in three decades, Caliman is joined by vibist Joe Locke, bassist Phil Sparks, drummer Joe LaBarbera and trumpeter Thomas Marriott, who also produced the recording.
The disc opens with Marriott's "Back For More," a 6/8 minor blues. The simplistic, captivating theme and energetic groove sets the stage for a session full of unrelenting energy. Well into his seventies, Caliman holds his own with his somewhat younger crew, playing with the confidence and inventiveness of someone half his age. The veteran weaves through the Kurt Weill obscurity "This Is New" with sophisticated playfulness and soars gracefully on his own Afro-Cuban-inspired burner "Comencio."
"Linda," Caliman's meditative tribute to his wife, is reminiscent of John Coltrane's "Naima" with its hauntingly sparse theme and bass pedal-tones. Locke's out-of-time floating behind the melody is satisfyingly hypnotic.
Things really start to cook by the time Joe Henderson's "If" is introduced. Supported by Sparks' rock-solid walking pulse, Marriott, Caliman and Locke blow through the angular blues form with imaginative vigor, setting up raucous twelve-bar exchanges with LaBarbera. On "Joe Joe Dancer Bossa Nova," another Caliman original, Marriott tips his hat to Hubbard with crackling lyricism.
Gratitude is an exceptional comeback for an unsung maverick of modern jazz. Hopefully the next one doesn't take thirty years.