Cult Classic: Hadley Caliman- Hadley Caliman.

Although Hadley Caliman had worked as a sideman for Dexter Gordon and Art Farmer, he didn’t release his eponymous debut album until he was thirty-nine. This wasn’t down to a lack of talent. Far from it. Hadley Caliman was one of the most talented tenor saxophonists and flautists of his generation. Instead, it was because Hadley became addicted to heroin. Just like so many jazz musicians before him, Hadley succumbed to temptation. As a result, Hadley didn’t release his eponymous, debut album, Hadley Caliman until 1971. It was released on Mainstream Records and is a reminder of one of jazz’s most underrated reeds-man. His story began back in 1932.

It was in 1932, in Idabel, Oklahoma, that Hadley Caliman was born. He attended music lessons from an early age and grew up playing tenor saxophone and flute. At the Jefferson High School, Hadley studied alongside trumpeter Art Farmer and saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Just like Art and Dexter, Hadley knew he would’ve to leave Idabel to make a living as a jazz musician. So he headed to Los Angeles.

Having moved to Los Angeles, Hadley’s career began. He became part of Art Farmer and then Dexter Gordon’s band. By the time Hadley was part of Dexter’s band, he’d established a reputation as one of the jazz’s best up-and-coming musicians. However, all wasn’t well in Hadley’s life.

Just like so many jazz musicians before him, including Hadley’s former employer Dexter Gordon, Hadley Caliman discovered drugs, and specifically heroin. Having succumbed to temptation, heroin dug its claws into Hadley. Soon, he was addicted. This impacted badly upon Hadley’s career. 

Hadley’s love-hate affair with drugs worsened. He realised he was slowly destroying his nascent career. Despite this, Hadley couldn’t help himself. Eventually, he found himself in throes of addition. Things got so bad, that Hadley ended up in jail. This meant that Hadley’s career was on hold. However, Hadley caught a break, when he entered rehab.

After several spells in jail, Hadley found himself in the Synanon Treatment Centre. It was literally make or break. Somehow, Hadley had to break the circle of addiction. Digging deep, deeper than he’d dug before, Hadley managed to get himself clean. This paid off.

As the second half of the sixties took shape, Hadley found himself working with Bobby Bryant’s band and The Gerald Wilson Big Band. Much as he enjoyed being  a sideman, Hadley wanted to embark upon a solo career. So, in 1969, Hadley headed to San Francisco and formed his own band.

San Francisco proved to be the perfect place for Hadley to make music. The city’s eclectic music rubbed off on Hadley, and helped Hadley’s music to develop and evolve. Not long after this, Hadley signed to Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records.

Now signed to Mainstream Records, Hadley Caliman began work on his debut album. He penned four of the six tracks. This included Cigar Eddie, Comencio, Little One and Kicking On The Inside. Pianist Larry Vuckovich contributed  Blues For L.L. and Longing. These six tracks became Hadley’s eponymous debut album Hadley Caliman.

When recording of Hadley Caliman began, Hadley had put together a tight, talented quintet. Hadley played tenor saxophone and flute and Larry Vuckovich piano. The rhythm section featured drummer Clarence Becton, bassist Bill Douglas and guitarist John White Jr. Once Hadley Caliman was recorded, it was released in 1971.

By 1971, jazz was no longer the musical flavour of the month. Funk and fusion had replaced jazz in the popularity stakes. For Hadley, this was disappointing. His debut album Hadley Caliman was released in 1971, and seemed to pass people by. After waiting so long, and overcoming so much, this must have been a huge disappointment for Hadley Caliman, whose eponymous debut album, I’ll tell you about.

Cigar Eddie opens Hadley Caliman. From the get-go, the bass drives the arrangement along. Soon, chiming guitars, mesmeric drums and percussionist enter. They’ve set the scene for Eddie’s sultry saxophone. It floats above the arrangement. Soulful and summery describes the sound. Gradually, though, the arrangement becomes more complicated. Subtleties and nuances are revealed. Especially during the solos. Guitarist John White Jr’s solo stands out. John’s like a master craftsman. So is Hadley. His solo is one of the finest. His playing veers between powerful to subtle and understated. Along with the rest of his band, he creates a  track that soulful, summery and full of nuances.

Bill Douglas’ pensive, probing bass then Clarence Becton’s understated drums join with Larry Vuckovich piano as Comencio unfolds. Straight away, the rhythm section are playing a crucial role. Then when Hadley’s tenor saxophone enters, it’s powerful and joyous. All the time, the bass is powering the arrangement along.  It’s joined by drums and hissing hi-hats. They’re at the heart of everything that’s good. This inspires Hadley. He unleashes a raging, growling saxophone solo. Then its time for the solos. Hadley allows everyone the opportunity to shine. They grandstand, before joining together and playing with power, passion and seemingly, unbridled joy.

A roll of drums signals the entrance of a Hadley’s slow, sultry and beautiful saxophone. It literally glides across the arrangement. Accompanying it, are flamboyant flourishes of piano and the rhythm section. When Hadley’s saxophone drops out, Larry Vuckovich’s piano picks up where Hadley left off. Then when Hadley returns, his playing is slightly more restrained. His rasping saxophone quivers and growls, its beauty omnipresent and captivating.

Blues For L.L sees Hadley and his band draw inspiration from John Coltrane’s early sixties modal jazz. H-hits hiss and shimmer, before what can only be described as stabs and sheets of saxophone are unleashed. A Fender Rhodes adds texture, while Afro-influenced drums provide a pulsating backdrop. Hadley plays with power and freedom, creating an experimental, avant-garde sound. Ironically, this isn’t new. To some extent, it had been done before by ‘Trane. However, here, though, Hadley was picking up ‘Trane’s baton and taking the music in a new and even more innovative direction.

Hadley wrote Kicking On The Inside for his three year old daughter. Deliberate stabs of piano and subtle cymbals prove to be scene-setters. They’re joined joined by stabs of saxophone. They join forces with the piano and gradually, begin to swing. Meanwhile, Bill Douglas’ bass helps drive the arrangement along. It’s joined by Larry Vuckovich’s piano. Atop the arrangement, sits Hadley’s growling, raging saxophone. He plays with controlled power and passion. Later, he allows his band to showcase their skills. First up is Bill Douglas’ bass. It’s accompanied by percussion and cymbals. Then a slow, melancholy piano adds a late-night sound. Gradually, the tempo increases, adding a sense of urgency and drama. When Hadley’s saxophone enters, it adds a mixture of melancholia and longing, before the drums power the arrangement along. What follows is literally like a swirling wall of sound, on what’s one of the most intriguing and innovative tracks on Hadley Caliman.

Longing closes Hadley Caliman. It has an otherworldly, experimental sound. Partly, that’s down to Hadley’s quivering flute and bells. After a pregnant pause, drums and piano increase the tempo and the arrangement flows along. As the piano and drums provide the mainstay of the arrangement, the flute shimmers, quivers and soars above the arrangement. Gradually, the drama and power increases. Partly, this is down to the rhythm section, pounded piano and Hadley’s flute. It takes centre-stage. That’s until the solos come round. Larry Vuckovich’s piano then steals the show and bassist Bill Douglas, more than plays his part. As for Hadley, he proves that he’s as equally comfortable on flute as he is on saxophone.

Belatedly, Hadley Caliman released his eponymous debut album in 1971. Hadley Caliman was released on Bill Shad’s Mainstream label.  It was the album that Hadley should’ve released ten years earlier. Sadly, however, Hadley, like many jazz musicians before him,  had succumbed to temptation.

Just like so many jazz musicians before him, Hadley Caliman discovered drugs. Hadley’s drug of choice was heroin. Having succumbed to temptation, heroin dug its claws into Hadley. Soon, he was addicted. Like so many addicts, Hadley spent years trying to replicate his first high. Little did he realise, that nothing comes close to the first high. His addiction impacted badly upon his career. 

Hadley’s love-hate affair with drugs worsened. Slowly he was destroying his nascent career. Despite this, Hadley couldn’t help himself. An addict can’t. Before long, Hadleyfound himself in throes of addition. Things got so bad, that Hadley ended up in jail. This meant that Hadley’s career was on hold. However, when he got out of prison Hadley caught a break.

The break came when Hadley entered rehab. He managed to get himself clean. This wasn’t easy. However, he managed to stay clean and get his career back on track.

By 1971, he was ready to release his debut album Hadley Caliman. A six track album, it’s the perfect showcase for Hadley. On five tracks, he showcases his skills as a tenor saxophonist. He plays with power and passion. Other times his playing is joyous, dramatic, restrained and full of melancholia. Then on Longing, which closes Hadley Caliman, Hadley plays flute. He’s just as comfortable playing flute as he is tenor saxophone. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, the man they called Little Dex had belatedly, fulfilled his potential. There was a but though.

Sadly, Hadley Caliman’s debut album wasn’t a commercial success. Hadley Caliman is best described as an album of straight ahead jazz, albeit with health hints of spiritual jazz. That was out fashion in 1971. This wasn’t what music buyers were interested in. Funk and fusion were the flavour of the month. So, it’s no surprise that Hadley Caliman literally sunk without trace. That’s a great shame, as Hadley Caliman is the perfect introduction to one of jazz’s best kept secrets.

Cult Classic: Hadley Caliman- Hadley Caliman.






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