Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb – Reunion – Origin Records 82569, 62:03 ****½:
(Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb, tenor sax; Bill Anschell, piano; Chuck Deardorf, bass; John Bishop, drums)
After reviewing both of Hadley Caliman’s previous two Origin Records releases, Gratitude and Straight Ahead, I felt that Hadley had many bright moments ahead of him. He had retired from teaching at Cornish College after 22 years of teaching, and was enjoying playing in Seattle, leading a small group as well as playing with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra.
Gratitude was recorded in 2008, and Straight Ahead followed two years later. The future looked promising but the general jazz public did not know that Hadley was suffering from liver cancer. Perhaps, that was part of the reason that Caliman wanted to kick his career back into gear. We will never know, as sadly Hadley Caliman passed away on Sept. 8 from his cancer. Reportedly, he remained active on the Seattle jazz scene till at least mid-August.
Reunion was recorded in Seattle on Nov. 19, 2009. You would never know that Hadley was ill during the recording session. He was reunited for the first time since the mid-60s with Pete Christlieb, with whom he had played in the then-active LA club jazz scene. Pete at the time was only 20 years old, but already heading for a distinguished career with big bands ranging from Woody Herman, Louie Bellson, Bill Holman, and 20 years with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band. Pete now plays often with Carl Saunders, and on his own as a leader. Hadley, on the other hand, moved from working with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra in LA and then up to San Francisco, where he backed Santana and other rock groups before settling in a more low key setting in the Pacific Northwest and into a teaching career.
When Gratitude was released in 2008, it was his first recording in 31 years as a leader.
Reunion finds the two tenors showing off their distinctively different tenor stylings. Pete is a bit more brash and hard-charging than Hadley plays. Caliman, who had the moniker of “Little Dex” after his hero of the day, Dexter Gordon, displays more of a gut level emotional searching quality.
Pete takes out “Little Dex” in an assertive manner that bridges bop and swing. When Caliman takes over you can tell the difference immediately. He swings more in a laid back manner but also he bends more notes and has a little edginess that creeps in.
“Up Jumped Swing”, a memorable Freddie Hubbard composition, finds the two horns blending sweetly, before Chuck Deardorf’s sensitive bass solo, comped by Anschell and Bishop. “Comencia” follows and has the two tenors blowing hot, and their differences are harder to distinguish here without a live setting.
I found the longest tune, “Gala,” to be my favorite, as it has a haunting quality that brings to mind Pharaoh Sanders in its intensity. Its emotional core sucks you in and does not let go. Bill Anschell’s solo is effective in ratcheting up the tenors before dropping down to some tender moments shared with Chuck Deardorf, and then taking up intensity again. John Bishop’s cymbals crash as emotion rises and Deardorf’s well miked bass again turns reflective. To hear “Gala” live would be quite the experience.
“Nasty Green” is largely a feature for its composer, Christlieb, whereas “Wide Stance”, a blues by Anschell, gives each tenor room to emote and Hadley and Pete seem to compete wringing out the blues feel. “Dream On” based on “Darn that Dream”, is the main feature for Christlieb, and Pete shows he can match Hadley for passionate blowing. “Love for Sale” ends our final meeting between these two tenor titans, and knowing that they will never meet for another reunion brings some wistfulness into the mix.
Listening to Reunion reaffirms my belief that when you get a chance to attend a concert with an elderly jazz master, who may not pass your way again, that it is your duty to attend, as life is too fleeting. You may never have another opportunity. May Pete Christlieb blow long and proud. RIP Hadley and thanks for the memories….
TrackList: Little Dex, Up Jumped Spring, Comencia, Gala, I Thought About You, Nasty Green, Wide Stance, Dream On, Love for Sale
— Jeff Krow