Hadley Caliman & Joel Frahm

I have had the pleasure of listening to some fantastic discs lately that I wanted to share with you. Some you might know but I’m pretty sure there are some that you wont know.  The first one is under the leadership of tenor saxophonist HADLEY CALIMAN

Caliman falls into the same category as the likes of Von Freeman, Buck Hill etc. Who are these guys you ask? Well these are fellow saxophonists that for whatever reason chose to stay in their respective hometowns or settle in towns that would not be considered jazz hotbeds (no dis-respect to Seattle).  His long career in jazz began at Jefferson High in Los Angeles where his classates included Art Farmer, followed by gigs on Central Avenue in the 50s where he was known as “Little Dex” (for Dexter Gordon with whom he studied). In the 60s he played with Mongo Santamaria, Gerald Wilson’s Big Band, Willie Bobo and Don Ellis. In San Francisco in the 70s, he played and recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Hampton Hawes, Jon Hendricks and Bobby Hutcherson and led four albums of his own. One of his high profile dates of the period was touring and recording with Santana at a time when rock bands were trying to expand their musical horizons by employing jazz musicians.

His latest CD finds him in the company of some really fine musicians, some more well known than others. Drummer Joe Labarbera is no strangers to jazz fans in the Vancouver area as he has appeared at The Cellar many times.  One of the true NICE GUYS in jazz Joe is a fiercely swinging drummer and is dynamic and versatile.  I don’t think I have ever heard him sound anything less than spectacular and this date is no exception.  Bassist Phil Sparks is a new name to me and what more can I say other than he anchors the band perfectly and does his job with not a lot of fanfare.  He’s got a nice big, round sound and locks in nicely with Joe and Joe.  The second Joe I speak of is vibraphonist JOE LOCKE (will be appearing in Vancouver at The Cellar on January 23rd and 24th).  It seems everytime you turn a corner these days there is another album with Locke manning the vibraphone. He really plays beautifully and combines all the obvious infuences and forges a sound and style all his own.  He is a very percussive and very rhythmic player and the unpredicatable twists and turns that his solos take are very welcoming!  Perhaps the biggest suprise of the record is trumpeter Thomas Marriott.  Marriott is new to me as well and hopefully we have a chance to get him up at The Cellar. He sounds absolutely fantastic through the whole recording. His trumpet sound is beautiful, his lines fluid and very very melodic. He’s not wasting any notes. They all mean something and his lines always have shape and purpose.  That leaves us with Mr. Caliman.  What an absolute treat to listen to.  You instantly hear that this is someone that has been around.  He has that classic old school sound and the execution of his lines are again only possible from someone that has lived and breathed the saxophone.  His sense of swing and feel remain relaxed regardless of the tempo.

Kudos to Read Ruddy the recording and mix engineer for capturing beautiful sounds.  Nice work!

I really hope we can get Mr. Caliman up to The Cellar because this elder statesman needs to be heard.  Visit Origin Records for more information on purchasing this CD.

While we’re on the subject of tenor saxophonists I want to hip you if you haven’t been hipped already to a young tenor saxophonist by the name of JOEL FRAHM.  He is among one of the finest saxophonists making music today. I had the great pleasure of meeting him at The Fat Cat Jazz Club a few years back when Cellar Live the New York Showcase. He was subbing for Ian Hendrickson-Smith in the Uptown Quintet.  I have been aware of him for some time through Palmetto Records who send me their stuff. Frahm has done three records with Palmetto including DON’T EXPLAIN which is a duo outing with non other than BRAD MEHLDAU.  Having only met Joel once I would also call him one of the NICE GUYS in jazz.  His latest outing WE USED TO DANCE finds him in the company of some pretty heavy musicians.  Pianist KENNY BARRON, bassist RUFUS REID and drummer VICTOR LEWIS make up the trio that back up Frahms big swinging tenor.  This is a sophisticated, unpretentious swinging date from start to finish.  The disc features tunes by Frahm, Kenny Barron and a few classic standards. A few highlights of the record for me are MY IDEAL played wonderfully and you really get an idea of what I’m talking about in terms of the beautiful, full, robust  yet sweet sound of Frahms tenor saxophone and  Barron’s SONG FOR ABDULLAH.

It should be noted that the rhythm section of Frahm’s choice happens to be the rhythm section that was used by the late great tenor saxophonist STAN GETZ in the latter years of his life.  Thats a gutsy move by the young tenor man but he acquits himself magnificently and plays with great confidence and sincerity.  Frahm exhibits maturity beyond his years!  We are talking about getting him up to The Cellar as well and hope it will be sooner rather than later.


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