Pete Christlieb's 'Self Portrait' 'Once jazz music gets under your skin, especially as a player, it never goes away - you're a lover for life.' That's exactly what tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb discovered a couple of years ago. While making a comfortable living in the Los Angeles studios and with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Band, Pete worked an occasional job with Louis Bellson or co-led bands with saxophonist Warne Marsh and vibraharpist Charlie Shoemake, but jazz wasn't at the heart of the matter. He wasn't getting up in the morning to play over some changes, he was getting up to play a studio call. That lifestyle didn't make much sense to a man who had started on saxophone strictly because he wanted to play jazz, so Christlieb began to pursue his true love in earnest. As he puts it, 'I realized that procrastinating and doing something are two different things, so I decided to start working on a musical career of my own instead of giving my best to somebody else.' Self Portrait is, at least for the moment, Pete Christlieb's best. It's a sparkling jewel of an album, shining and multidimensional, revealing the many charming and diverse musical attitudes that make up this saxophonist-composer's artistic expression. It's the result of two years of creative effort and perseverance, and that steadfastness is manifest in the quality and excellence of the seven original, stimulating pieces. To begin with there's 'Hookin' It,' a spunky shuffle blues that jumps right up at you, which was written by Joe Roccisano and Pete in less than half an hour. 'The shuffle feel is an old time feel,' says Christlieb, 'and I love it. I was involved with this type of music years ago when I was playing with trumpeter Bobby Bryant's band, featuring organist Henry Cain, and I still love to play like this every once in a while.' Joe's alto solo is particularly zesty, with bubbling double times, and Mike Melvoin socks some popping lines out of the Hammond organ. The lovely and ethereal 'So What's Old' is read by Pete and fellow tenorist Marsh, whom he met ten years ago when Warne was living in the southland, and whom he considers a major influence on his evolution as an improviser. 'Meeting Warne really began to stimulate me toward out-and-out playing,' Christlieb relates, 'and playing with him makes it possible for me to do things I ordinarily wouldn't do. We really listen to each other when we play and what I hear coming out of his horn comes out of my horn two bars later, and vice versa.' This ballad is highlighted by just such interweaving of ideas, with the players often hitting the same line of thought simultaneously. 'VuJaDe' (the title was coined by George Carlin, meaning somewhere you know you've never been before), a warm, friendly work, conveys three moods: a rollicking back beat and a lilting bossa feeling - where Pete and Lou Levy solo - with a quiet transition section sporadically separating the two. Pete's choruses come right out of a bassoon cadenza by his father, Don. 'I wanted him to improvise something in this spot showing the range of the instrument, I think he did a fabulous job, considering he's never improvised before. This is a first for me as well; my first arrangement of one of my tunes for a large group. I finally got my feet wet.' Of Lou Levy's 'Lunarcy' the leader comments: 'It's kind of a 'Giant Steps' approach to 'How High the Moon.' Warne plays it like he wrote it. I originally intended this tune to go on the 'Apogee' album for Warner Brothers, but the producers, Steely Dan, rejected it. I'm really glad not that they did, because it's one of our favorite blowing tunes, and because the WB album wasn't truly representative of how good Warne and I can sound together.' Indeed, the entire band sounds A-1 here. Side two's opener, 'Mari', was written by Roccisano for his cousin. Against a gently buoyant ¾ meter, Steve Huffsteter, sporting a soft, diffused yet ringing trumpet tone, plays the melody, backed by lush woodwinds. He solos, followed by Christlieb; a lovely a cappella woodwind passage; and a tenor/trumpet duet for a rippling close. 'Joe wrote this as a vehicle for Steve,' Pete says, 'and I loved the way he played it with Joe's big band, so I was thrilled to give him some space here, especially since he sounds so good.' 'I've Never Been in Love Before' is the result of the kind of spontaneity that's only possible among musicians who are relaxed with each other. 'Mike Melvoin, Jim Hughart, Dick Berk and I walked into the studio,' Pete says, 'and we went into this, just to get a feel for the room. When I heard the playback, I just couldn't believe how well it came off. Dig the way Mike makes that organ sing.' Other delights of this 'first take' are the easy, natural flow of the leader's solo and Hughart's full, resounding bass outing. Pete heard Johnny Mandel's 'Close Enough for Love' (from the film, 'Agatha') and immediately wanted to learn it and play it. This Lou Levy arrangement features Hughart with another captivating solo, and the tenors, of whom Pete adds, 'This tune again exhibits how well we play off each other, listening hard and the music pouring out. It's like a sixth sense between us, and the ultimate kick is to be able to enjoy it while you're doing it.' And so Self Portrait, a septet of very listenable musical adventures from an obviously talented Pete Christlieb, jazz lover, and his friends. It's an enjoyable and tasteful offering. Zan Stewart April, 1981 Thanks to these people for helping to make this album a great and memorable experience: Brian Elliot and Brian Elliot Recording Studios Group IV Recording: Angel Balestier and Paul Aronoff, Second Engineer And, of course, Jim Hughart, first engineer, mixer and overseer of all sound! - - Pete Christlieb.
You May Also Like
Page 1 of