Charlie Haden Quartet West feat. Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renée Fleming, Ruth Cameron - Sophisticated Ladies
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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.
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 Renée 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.
Reviewed: Charlie Haden Quartet West Featuring Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renée Fleming, Ruth Cameron - Sophisticated Ladies (EmArcy) Cat. No:0602527508160 Release date: 16th May 2011
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