By Cynthia Mullis
Yes, Bill Barton said it: this was a do-not-miss event! This sold-out CD release party for Hadley Caliman’s Origin release, Gratitude, was a fine representation of the richness of the Seattle jazz scene infused with lots of New York energy. Everyone in the band was on their toes and it showed in creative soloing, interesting arrangements and a wonderful ensemble dynamic. Here is my version of the night as experienced from the big round table at the back of Tula’s (which was also the locus of a cool between-set hang).
Hadley Caliman is a Northwest treasure because he is a great musician with a creative voice on the saxophone. To my ears, he is grounded in the post-bop ‘60s sound of Joe Henderson and John Coltrane, which for me, is the benchmark of modern tenor saxophone. He veers towards Coltrane on the up-tempo tunes, while his phrasing and tone are more Henderson-esque.
The first set consisted of selections from Caliman’s new CD and included: “Back for More,” a 6/8 blues by Marriott; “Invitation”; “Linda” by Caliman; “If,” a Joe Henderson blues; and ending with the first tune Caliman ever wrote, entitled “Comencio.” The set was marked by concise, energetic playing and there were, in fact, no long-winded solos all night.
By the second set, the groove and credentials of the band had been established. Caliman’s tone, subdued and hindered by an unsympathetic sound system in the first set, was full, resonant and well-mic’ed in the second set. The moment that I got Hadley’s playing was in the second set on his version of “Lush Life.” This is a tune with famous recordings by both Coltrane and Henderson–it’s hard to get away from these definitive versions–but Caliman asserted his voice with langorous phrases full of creativity, originality, and a lifetime of experience. It was the best of Hadley Caliman’s saxophone playing and one of the more memorable moments of the evening.
Trumpeter Thomas Marriott was his usual impressive self. I enjoy his swinging, flowing eighth-notes lines that are laced with the history of modern jazz trumpet playing. While I hear numerous influences in his playing, they are on the verge of disappearing into his own distinct style. He played beautiful, to-the-point solos that lack the histrionic devices typical of a lot of trumpet playing. To me, he is in the same league with Joe Magnarelli and other NY trumpet players of that circle, and we’re lucky to have him back as a local.
Bill Barton is right on with his description of vibraphonist Joe Locke. What else can you say? He’s a fantastic, passionate and high energy musician. Locke was the main harmonic voice but doubled horn lines, bass lines and created rhythmic grooves throughout the evening. He uses the four-mallet technique developed by Gary Burton and infuses his lines with hints of Mike Manieri and Bobby Hutcherson. Locke’s solos were comprised of intricate swinging lines full of blues and bebop vocabulary combined with cool harmonic patterns, and his long, winding phrases were punctuated by climactic eddies of rhythmic creativity.
In addition to the excellent individual performances of each musician, I enjoyed the rhythmic intensity of the group. Bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Matt Jorgensen are a locked-in solid pair to begin with, but the added energy of Joe Locke upped the ante. The interplay between the two percussionists, both with New York chops, was a highlight of the night. Phil Sparks was the connection between the horn players and the rhythm players and welded the group into a unit. The night showed Phil at his finest, providing the mind-meld link between horns and rhythm with grounded energy and impeccable harmonic guidance. The rhythmic accompaniment of Phil, Matt and Joe was constantly bubbling and churning behind the solos, providing a tsunami wave of poly-rhythms and harmony for the soloists.
In addition, the individual musical relationships of Joe and Thomas, Hadley and Phil, and Matt and Phil made for a night of tight musical friends and compatriots and the feeling of a true band. If you couldn’t get in the door at Tula’s, I’m sorry to tell ya that you missed a good one. Console yourself by checking out the new CD and resolving to catch these guys the next chance you get.