Vibraphonist Mike Mainieri is hardly the first jazz artist to pay tribute to John Coltrane, but he may very well be the first to do so accompanied solely by alto saxophone (the late Charlie Mariano) and double bass (German Dieter Ilg) -- no drummer or pianist in sight. A double CD recorded in 2005, four years before Mariano's death, Crescent is a largely low-key affair. It unfolds at a leisurely pace and rarely kicks up any serious dust; the artists prefer to stay on a reflective, unhurried path that leaves lots of open space in which they can maneuver. But what Crescent lacks in velocity and volume it more than makes up for in texture and warmth. On both Coltrane originals ("Giant Steps," "Naima," the title track) and standards ("Bye Bye Blackbird," "Body and Soul," "Nancy"), Mainieri and Mariano lock into a groove that doesn't echo Coltrane's arrangements but rather evokes the spirit of the source material. Mainieri says in his liner notes that most of the recordings here were first takes, unrehearsed at that, and indeed there is a sense of spontaneity throughout. But that seat-of-the-pants approach, rather than resulting in a chaotic mess, works to the musicians' advantage, leaving them free to explore without worrying about precedents. These are confident, experienced musicians who know their way around a melody. The vibes and alto solos, and there are many, are often freewheeling and adventurous, and Ilg's basslines match them in smarts and inventiveness. Crescent manages to pay tribute to Trane by not trying to be Trane, and as such it stands as one of the more enjoyable nods to his creative example.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2