India Instruments » Netzwerk » Hintergrundtsexte » Charlie Mariano - Pionier der Welt-Jazz

Charlie Mariano - Pionier der Welt-Jazz

Hommage von Ramesh Shotham
(August 2009)

World-Jazz-Percussionist Ramesh Shotham hat über drei Jahrzehnte hinweg immer wieder mit dem großen Saxophonisten und Weltmusiker Charlie Mariano zusammengespielt und war eng mit ihm befreundet. Nach Charlie Marianos Tod hat uns Ramesh jetzt folgenden Nachruf geschickt:

The world has witnessed the comings and goings of great artists who have lived and created amongst us and shown us the way. Every once in a while some of us are blessed to be touched personally by one of these unique human beings. Charlie Mariano, who passed away on the 16th of June, 2009 at the age of 85, was not only a great jazz musician, but went beyond his chosen genre to study the intricacies of Indian music during the early seventies. A couple of years later he based himself in Europe and his music during the next three decades became so influential that he is acknowledged by musicians and critics alike to be the father of World Music.

I remember my first meeting with Charlie Mariano in 1976 as if it happened just yesterday. He was invited by Jazz India to come to Bombay and perform four concerts. One of my friends from Jazz India called me up and told me that I should come (I was based in Bangalore around that time), and bring along my South Indian drum, the Tavil. He said Charlie would be surely playing his newly acquired South Indian instrument, the Nadaswaram, and that he'd be very interested in having me in the group. It turned out exactly like that because Charlie straightaway invited me during the first rehearsal with the local rhythm section, to sit in and play. It was an incredible experience for me because Charlie made all of us feel relaxed and comfortable enough to be able to play tunes he had brought with him, tunes we had never heard before! I spent the whole week in Bombay visiting Charlie at his hotel, talking about jazz and Indian music, and basically picking his brains to glean as much information as possible.

When Charlie left Bombay he said, 'Come to Europe man, that's where it's all happening.' I took his advice literally and in December 1980, after a 3 month tour of the Eastern European countries with Sangam (then known as the Jazz Yatra Septet), I met Charlie again in Munich, playing live at a jazz club with his quartet. At that point in time Charlie was living in Munich and I used to visit him whenever he happened to be in town. Charlie, I discovered, loved card games, puzzles, word games and it was fun to spend hours on the road during later tours with him keeping ourselves thus occupied to beat the monotony of daily travel. He also loved to read, and whenever we met or were on the road, passed on the paperbacks he had read to me. Over the years I've inherited hundreds of books from him.

Charlie Mariano became a mentor to me and a host of my colleagues. He was like an elder statesman for a couple of generations of young musicians in Europe. Listening to Charlie talking about his years in the Stan Kenton Band, his work with Mingus, his years at the Berklee College of Music, his life in Japan with Toshiko Akiyoshi, was like experiencing jazz history first hand. Charlie also instilled in us the importance of being disciplined, of being punctual, and coming to rehearsals prepared. He had little patience with people who turned up late. Since he played with a host of different musicians, he always set a great example by coming prepared with the music. He placed great importance on the music being properly notated. But he also showed great patience when we sometimes had no written music and he had to write or transpose his own part by ear. A lot of tunes of groups like the Karnataka College of Percussion, Bhavani, Madras Special were notated originally by Charlie. I still have a collection of his handwritten sheets in my book!

Charlie's work in Europe is well documented and he has left an incredible store of recorded music. He was a regular member of legendary groups such as the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, Colours, Pork Pie, his collaborations with Jasper van't Hof and Philip Catherine, etc. He also lead his own groups, but I think in later years he was more happy playing in other people's bands. With the Karnataka College of Percussion he recorded the highly acclaimed CD 'Jyothi' on the ECM label which was the beginning of over a quarter century of touring and recording with this formation. On the last recording Charlie made with the KCP5 called 'Many Ways', recorded in Bangalore, the voice and saxophone blend so closely in the unison passages, that sometimes one has the impression that just a single instrument is playing!

Charlie Mariano was quite at home in India. He in fact rented a small apartment in Bangalore close to the Karnataka College of Percussion, and spent a couple of winter months there between 2004-2006. Charlie liked sitting in on music lessons conducted by Ramamani or T.A.S. Mani and interacted with the young students. He played a couple of traditional concerts with us and the Bangalore audience loved every minute of them. He loved eating South Indian breakfasts and I've shared many a Masala Dosa or Idli sambar with him! He also came a couple of times to visit my family in Madras and never ceased to praise my mother's fish curry! But he could cook well himself and taught me several great Italian recipes.

Charlie Mariano left behind a great legacy and I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have been part of his musical journey from the 1980s through to 2009. Above all, he taught me professionalism, which has helped me enormously in my pursuit of becoming a successful freelance musician. For him, being a fine musician was just one of the qualities, the others being professionalism, punctuality and very importantly, a wellgroomed appearance. His love for unusual and colourful clothes is legendary. He took pride in being hip and up-to-date. It was the same with technology. Charlie always had the latest electronic gadget as soon as it hit the market. I've seen him with the earliest digital recorders, DAT machines, Mini-disc, several different Macs, and most recently, the iPhone!

We, his colleagues and fans, will miss him and his aura on stage. But he'll live on through his music and his spirit will continue to inspire us. Recently I recorded a piece with Mike Herting which he dedicated to Charlie Mariano called, 'May You Smile Upon Us'. I'm sure he is doing exactly that wherever he is.