If you liked modern jazz, and you were in Boston in the early 1950s, Charlie Mariano was your man. You don’t have to take my word for it. When I interviewed Ray Santisi for The Boston Jazz Chronicles, he said Mariano was the best of the town’s modern alto players, no question. So did Herb Pomeroy in his interview. And so did Dick Johnson in his, and Johnson went on to say Mariano was the best ballad player he ever knew.

Cover of Prestige LP 153

Charlie Mariano and the Boston All Stars, Prestige LP 153

You can judge for yourself, on a recording made on this day, 61 years ago.

Charlie Mariano is no stranger to this blog, of cours. He was the star soloist with the Nat Pierce Orchestra, and he was part of Boston’s first jazz festival with his band, the Boptet. The people at Prestige Records recognized Mariano as one to watch, and he recorded his first album for that label in 1951, a 10-inch LP titled The New Sounds from Boston. And in spring 1953, he’d make a modest proposal to a handful of his sympatico musician buddies: “let’s start a jazz workshop.” The hands-on, learn-by-doing school they started in a Stuart Street office building was eventually integrated into the Berklee School, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

In 1952, Mariano was working at the Hi-Hat when he could, but his primary place of employment was the Melody Lounge in Lynn, and there he was surrounded by the best jazz musicians in Boston—Jaki Byard, Serge Chaloff, Roy Frazee, Gene Glennon, Joe Gordon, Ray Santisi, Sonny Truitt, Al Walcott, Dick Wetmore…the list goes on.

Prestige invited Mariano to make another album, and Ira Gitler came to Boston to supervise the proceedings. Mariano brought Herb Pomeroy, Bernie Griggs, Dick Twardzik and Jimmy Weiner to the Ace Recording Studio on January 27, 1953, where they recorded the six sides that Prestige released as The Charlie Mariano Boston All Stars (PRLP 153).

Mariano wasn’t in town when his LP arrived in stores in late 1953. He was on the West Coast, having replaced Lee Konitz in Stan Kenton’s orchestra.

High points of the Boston All Stars LP include “Bye Bye Blues,” taken at a breakneck bebop pace, and “I’m Old Fashioned,” with a fine Mariano solo, heard here.