Charlie Haden gets some sophisticated ladies to join in with his Quartet West project where they excel in lush, romantic arrangements of music from Hollywood’s golden era; and they are in London Town this weekend!
By absolute coincidence, the other week I was looking at Archie Shepp’s Mama Too Tight album for a track to play at Jazz Chronicles and spotted that Charlie Haden was on bass. Only half a surprise as he’s been a top bassist for most of his 74 years, although intuitively, he’s more associate him more with Ornette Coleman’s free-jazz period of the 60s.
That said, it’s not too difficult when looking for a jazz track to spot Charlie Haden on a session as he’s played with everyone (almost literally) on hundreds of releases and on this latest release, he gets half a dozen beauties to feature as Sophisticated Ladies!
And it seems an appropriate way for the bassist’s group to celebrate their 25th anniversary along with Alan Broadbent (piano and orchestral string arrangements), Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone) and for his first Quartet West recording, Rodney Green (drums) who replaced the band’s 20 year veteran Larance Marable when he became ill.
‘If I’m Lucky’ with Melody Gardot opens the album with suitable tinkering piano bar keys, mournful sax interjections, brushed drums, long sultry strings and totally dinner jazz vibe.
Not my normal listen but the following instrumental rendition of Ellington/Berlin/Parish of the title track (somewhat ironic that it’s an instrumental in the circumstances) is proof of this album’s “gorgeous, poised and inviting” feel as Watt’s sax and the strings hark back to days long gone.
We’ve not heard from Norah Jones for a while, but she’ll blow you away on ‘Ill Wind’ and normally I’d say the same about Cassandra Wilson but any Johnny Mercer tune (in this case ‘My Love And I’ from the movie Apache) is just a tad too Barbara for me (although Haden gets a rare solo as a saving grace); and this is the first time the lyrics have been recorded!
And talking of musical theatre, co-producer with Charlie, his wife Ruth Cameron gets the full string orchestration on ‘Let’s Call It A Day’ (clearly tongue in cheek as she’ll be with him and Carla Bley this weekend at two live shows at the Barbican – see details below) but I’d say the highlight of the guest vocalist is René Fleming on ‘A Love Like This’ (keeping up her musical chameleon approach from her own album A Dark Hope from this time last year to her duet with Brad Mehldau Love Sublime) being the theme of 1943′s For Whom The Bells Tolls, a movie based on Hemmingway’s novel about the Spanish Civil War.
There’s definitely scope for a proper Fleming jazz album and if she could give up being a world famous classical soprano for a bit, it’d be fantastic. ‘A Love Like This’ is definitely one for a leftfield Jonny Trunk show and it’s not just Fleming on top form, the whole concept really peaks on this track – superb stuff.
Mrs Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, is the last of the six girls to make an appearance and it’s too late late nite jazz bar sophorific for me (but there’s no doubt about it, she’s a star).
And if you don’t like the girls, there’s still six quartet instrumentals all arranged by Haden. ‘Today I’m A Man’ is the upbeat jazz quartet bopper with Watt’s far harder on this one than the rest of the album (this is the one for June’s Jazz Chronicles session), ‘My Old Flame’ featuring Hadden and for those with a good memories, ‘Wahoo’ is the title track to a 1964 Duke Pearson Blue Note album, the ‘Wahoo’ here is a different one.
‘The Theme From Markham‘ (no I don’t know the film either) but seems like it was written for this band.
Needless to say that Haden is Mr. Cool throughout and whilst this repertoire isn’t exactly The Shape Of Jazz To Come or This Is Our Music, it’s pure class; sophisticated jazz for the masses.
Saturday 21st May 8pm Charlie Haden Quartet West + Special Guests Melody Gardot and Ruth Cameron: A celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Quartet West, featuring Ernie Watts performing their songs from Haden’s new Emacy release Sophisticated Ladies
Sunday 22nd May 8pm Charlie Haden & The Liberation Music Orchestra: co-led by Haden and Carla Bley, the Anglo-American star ensemble transforms songs of protest and revolution into a contemporary jazz tour-de-force.
Barbican www.barbican.org.uk tel: 0844.848.8436
Reviewed: Charlie Haden Quartet West Featuring Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Rene Fleming, Ruth Cameron – Sophisticated Ladies (EmArcy) Cat. No:0602527508160 Release date: 16th May 2011
1 If I’m Lucky feat. Melody Gardot [Written by Eddie De Lange & Josef Myrow] (5:41)
2 Sophisticated Lady [Written by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Mitchell Parish] (4:28)
3 All Wind feat. Norah Jones [Written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler] (4:25)
4 Today I Am A Man [Written by Steve Kuhn] (5:23)
5 My Love And I feat. Cassandra Wilson [Written by David Raskin & Johnny Mercer] (4:14)
6 Theme From “Markham” [Written by Stanley Wilson] (4:40)
7 Let’s Call It A Day feat. Ruth Cameron [Written by Lew Brown & Ray Henderson] (5:52)
8 Angel Face [Written by Hank Jones] (4:08)
9 A Love Like This feat. Rene Fleming [Written by Ned Washington & Victor Young] (5:13)
10 My Old Flame [Written by Arthur Johnston & Sam Coslow] (5:35)
11 Goodbye feat. Diana Krall [Written by Gordon Jenkins] (5:48)
12 Wahoo [Written by Bennie Harris] (4:52)
Jazz Chronicles with Simon S, Martin Gordon (Brownswood) and Gerry Hectic
Saturday 4 June 2011 at 3:00pm the Jazz Chronicles trio of regular DJs Simon S, Martin Gordon & Gerry Hectic (www.flyglobalmusic.com) for some sounds from labels like Blue Note, Impulse, Strata East, CTI & Black Jazz together with other dusty grooves and future classics!
Sixty Million Postcards, 19-21 Exeter Road, Bournemouth BH2 5AF www.sixtymillionpostcards.com