Charlie Mariano: Helen 12 Trees
Helen 12 Trees
Charlie Mariano (saxes, reeds)
Helen 12 Trees (MPS 15483)
Zbigniew Seifert (violin), John Marshall (drums), Nippy Noya (percussion).
Composed by Charlie Mariano.
Recorded: Munich, Germany, May 1976
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
"Helen 12 Trees" is what you would get if you took a pinch of Return to Forever, a dash of Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and a smidgen of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, put it all together into a simmering pot, and added saxophonist Charlie Mariano to taste. The tune was penned by Mariano but sounds like it was written by Jan Hammer. This is because it has at times the same vibe as Hammer's "Sister Andrea," which he performed with Mahavishnu and with Tommy Bolin. At other times, "Helen 12 Trees" resembles the serious side of Hammer's Oh, Yeah? All of which is a roundabout way of saying that he dominates this performance.
Zbigniew Seifert's violin chords and Hammer's electric piano open the piece. Their chords intersect, producing a slightly mysterious air to the riffs. Early on, drummer John Marshall is given space for a matter-of-fact drum solo. Hammer then comes with Moog notes blazing. You need to take cover. Next, Mariano expertly solos over Seifert's and Hammer's thematic patterns and Jack Bruce's busy basslines. Mariano should have received more attention during the jazz-rock explosion. He is quite literally playing fusion jazz saxophone years before other sax players caught on. (Joe Farrell is excluded from that statement.) We are very lucky MPS has found a way to finally release the criminally under-heard Helen Twelve Trees on CD. The title cut is but one of the reasons. It turns out that Mariano led one of the greatest fusion sessions most of us were never aware of.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky