Pete Christlieb & Warne Marsh

Apogee Album (16408 bytes)

Warner Bros. Records Inc.  BSK 3236 (1978) vinyl

Pete Christlieb - Tenor Saxophone
Warne Marsh - Tenor Saxophone
Lou Levy - Piano
Jim Hughart - Bass
Nick Ceroli - Drums

Magna-tism, 317 E. 32nd, Rapunzel, Tenors Of The Time arranged by Joe Roccisano

Production Co-ordinator: Karen Stanley

Recording Engineer: Roger Nichols
at ABC Recording Studio, Los Angeles
Mixing Engineer: Elliot Scheiner,
at Automated Sound Studios, New York
Mastering engineer: Robert Ludwig,
at Masterdisk, New York

Cover Photo: Benno Friedman
Design: Richard Mantel for Push Pin Studios
Art Direction: John Cabalka

Produced by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

(Pete Christlieb)
317 E. 32nd
(Lennie Tristano)
(Walter Becker/Donald Fagen)

Tenors Of The Time
(Joe Roccisano)
Donna Lee
(Charles Parker)
I'm Old Fashioned
(Jerome Kern, John Mercer)


Sleeve notes:

gap.gif (56 bytes)If you were going out and looking for two saxophonists who might play well together, it’s a safe bet you wouldn’t come up with the pairing of Warne Marsh and Pete Christlieb. Marsh is one of the genuine mavericks of the tenor saxophone. He perfected his art under the influence of Lennie Tristano’s cool, rigorous discipline, but very early on he managed to develop a style that was (and remains to this day) wholly unpredictable. He will play double-time, half-time, and apparently out of time in the course of a single phrase; just when he seems to be lagging lethargically behind the beat you blink your eyes and find him right on top of it. Pete Christlieb, whose father is a celebrated classical bassoonist now at work recording the complete works of Hindemith, is a bigtoned, technically awesome, straight-ahead swinger. He has been a member of the Tonight Show band for several years now, and while those who have been lucky enough to hear him play small group jazz have come away mightily impressed, it’s unlikely that any of them came away thinking about pairing him with Warne Marsh.
gap.gif (56 bytes) Pete and Warne themselves actually came up with the idea of playing together. They made a recording of tenor duets, backed by bass and drums, that eventually found its way into the hands of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who are better known collectively as the multi-platinium-selling rock group Steely Dan. Again, the combination is not the sort of thing that spontaneously comes to mind. But as Steely Dan fans know, Fagen and Becker are adroit masters of traditional jazz harmonies, and more than that, they are interested in and perhaps obsessed by the iconology of jazz. They’ve written a song about Charlie Parker ("Parker’s Band"), rearranged Duke Ellington’s "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" for rock band and pedal steel guitar, and conducted a particularly knowing examination of what can only be termed the impulse to jazz, in their song "Deacon Blues." That song features a tenor saxophone solo by Pete Christlieb.
 gap.gif (56 bytes)And so, circuitously but inevitably, we come to Apogee. To begin with, the right rhythm section had to be found. Lou Levy, the pianist, turned in an astonishing performance on Marsh’s recent album All Music (Nessa records). His rich, deftly placed chording frames the tenor solos brilliantly, and his own improvisations are fresh and conscientiously inventive. Bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Nick Ceroli kick things along righteously. They are a living embodiment of that good old forward-propelling directionality, as Gunther Schuller once called swing, but not once are they overbearing about it.
 gap.gif (56 bytes)Joe Roccisano, who has been living in Christlieb’s garage apartment and arranging for Phil Woods, among other assignments, wrote some scintillating charts for the date. All the tunes except for Charlie Parker’s "Donna Lee" and the standard "I’m Old Fashioned", which were more or less impromptu jams, bear Roccisano’s touch. The tunes themselves are interesting and thoughtfully chosen. "Magna-tism" is basically an improvisation on the standard "Just Friends" that Christlieb played some years ago and Roccisano took the time to write out. Marsh chose "317 E. 32nd," a challenging line by his old mentor Lennie Tristano. "Rapunzel" is a Fagen and Becker’s first bebop composition and suggests the pair may yet make something of themselves if they keep at it. "It’s probably the first bebop tune based on the chords to a recent popular song," says Fagen, "the song being ‘Land of Make Believe’ by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, not the Chuck Mangione tune of the same name. We heard the song on a Dionne Warwick record and thought it would be nice to blow on." The album’s all-out flagwaver, "Tenors of the Time," was written by Roccisano.
 gap.gif (56 bytes)Identifying the soloists should be a snap, but for the listener who is not a rabid tenor freak, at least not yet, here is a breakdown. "Magna-tism," which begins with delirious counterpoint from the two tenors and then breaks into some heavy riffing by way of introducing the theme, features Christlieb first and Marsh second. "Pete is a burning tenor player with a lot of that Texas sound," says Fagen. "He exhibits an incredible amount of vitality in his playing, and technically he’s incredible. But it’s never a letdown when Warne follows him, because Warne is so damned interesting." In fact, Marsh is practically perverse on this cut. If Pete is straight-ahead, Warne is multi-directional. His lines seem to unravel in bursts and jolts, to expand, contract, and a double back on themselves. Yet he projects an admirable aura of relaxation; his lines flow.
 gap.gif (56 bytes)Marsh, Hughart and Ceroli usher in the Tristano tune. The tenor’s flurrying five-note phrases that come in just after Levy enters have an unmistakable Lennie T. ring to them. Levy is resourceful and very much himself in his piano solo and Christlieb manages to be both soulful and classy in his concluding improvisation. Everybody has a good time on "Rapunzel," which has lovely bell chords behind Hughart’s opening bass solo, oblique but ravishingly coherent Marsh, then Levy, then Christlieb, then some of the album’s most inspired, densely entwined counterpoint. "Tenors of the Time" begins at a flat roar and never lets up, with Christlieb soloing first and a heated Marsh following without a break. The two saxophonists came up with the mirror-image spacing of the theme on "Donna Lee," which again features Christlieb and Marsh in rapid succession. "I’m Old Fashioned" is all Christlieb, a ballad feature with a subtle and lasting charm. Levy’s solo ends with a sparkling little coda, followed by a brief Christlieb signature phrase that signals Finis.

-Robert Palmer

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