I played two gigs with Glen Moore this weekend, the great bassist from the group Oregon, and we started talking about Charlie Mariano. He was saying how he has done several European tours with him and that he still sounds incredible. Mariano is eighty-something years old! I think the term Glenn used for Charlie's playing was "balls to the wall". Mariano has been living in Cologne, Germany for some time now and he rarely plays in the states anymore. There are very few of his early straight-ahead recordings still available. He did some classic records with Charles Mingus in the early sixties. He was once married to Toshiko Akioshi in the late fifties and they put out a really great record that is one of my all time favorites. Charlie with Joe Viola at Berklee long ago and later taught there.
In the seventies Charlie went to India to study classical Indian music for several years. He was taught in the traditional way where you're not even allowed to touch an instrument for a long time, you must first learn to sing. Came back to Boston wearing long white flowing robes, sandals and playing the Nagaswaram (sounds like a cross between a oboe, bagpipes and a flock of geese).
More recently he recorded a couple of slamming CDs with master oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil.
In my book Mariano is still one of the greatest alto players ever. He has such a classic yet personal tone, his own musical vocabulary, and an amazing sense of intonation (he is the bend master). He recorded the soundtrack in the late sixties for the movie adaptation of Herman Hesse's masterpiece 'Steppenwolf', if you can ever find a copy on VHS. The film is totally psycedelic and the music is spectacular. I always wanted to go to Cologne (which is a gorgeous city) just to take a few lessons with Charlie, maybe someday......