Max Bab & Charlie Mariano, Max Bab & Charlie Mariano

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

I'm wary of mainstream jazz groups I've never heard before. They're generally derivative and often not very good. But because Charlie Mariano, the great and woefully under-recorded alto saxophonist, appears on the aptly titled Max Bab and Charlie Mariano, I took a chance. It turned out to be a rewarding investment.

A mainstream jazz group it’s OK to like. Seriously.

Max Bab is in fact the name of a German jazz quartet that consists of tenor saxophonist Max von Mosch and pianist Benedikt Jahnel, drummer Andi Haberl and bassist Benny Schafer (whose first initials form "BAB."). Max Bab and Charlie Mariano is a live recording played before an enthusiastic audience.

While nothing Max Bab plays is groundbreaking, all four members are good instrumentalists — energetic and responsively interactive. Von Mosch is particularly fluent, with an appealingly raspy tone, but the clincher for downloading this album is Charlie Mariano. At eighty-plus years of age, he is still playing with great fire and conviction. His solos are unfailingly emotional and deeply original, inspiring the rest of the band to play beyond themselves. Listen to the off-balance discursion that Mariano plays on “Flying the Kite,” and how pianist Jahnel responds. Or check out Charlie's screaming gutbucket solo on “Lopin'” — it sounds like he's found the fountain of youth.