Jazz fusion records from the 1974 time frame are almost always going to fall into one of two categories: a few that are truly great but overly familiar, or, more frequently, simply forgettable. Transitory by Pork Pie is a unique one from that period in that it's both outstanding even today but largely overlooked. The second part is due to having not been released in digital form, but that problem was remedied with the inaugural CD release this past July 29. That provides the occasion to re-examine this lost classic of vintage Euro-fusion.
Transitory was the first album by the short-lived outfit Pork Pie (named for jazz saxophonist hall of famer Lester Young). Pork Pie was a European-based supergroup led by its youngest player (27 at the time), the highly imaginative Dutch keyboardist Jasper van't Hof. Prior to putting together this first serious effort as a leader, van't Hof had gigged with George Gruntz, Archie Shepp, and Jean-Luc Ponty.
The band's guitarist, the Belgian/English guitarist Philip Catherine had similarly played in Ponty's band during the early seventies. By the time he signed up with Pork Pie he was already acquiring a reputation as one of Europe's foremost versatile jazz guitarists.
At 51, Boston-born Charlie Mariano was already well-established as one of the more prominent early Parker disciples while playing alto sax for Stan Kenton and Charles Mingus. By 1974, he could have easily coasted on that reputation, but Mariano had a restless spirit that matched even Miles Davis'. Mariano first studied the culture and music of India and the Far East before settling in Europe by the time Pork Pie was forming. Amongst a group of young, just emerging musicians, Mariano was the clear marquee heavyweight player in the group.
The band was rounded out by lesser-known but no less talented players: Aldo Romano had by this time---along with Han Bennink---become the premier free jazz drummer in Europe. J.F. Jenny-Clarke was better known as a first-call bassist in the classical field. Both were tied together by their association with the earlier, fiery version of Gato Barbieri. The group was supplemented on certain tracks by Ivanir Mandrake, a major figure among Brazilian percussionists. Even with this lineup, there was no guarantee that they would mesh; many times with these summit meetings the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Not in this case.