Release Date: Mar 22, 2011
Record label: Decca
Genre(s): Jazz, Vocal, Standards, Neo-Bop
Those familiar with American bassist Charlie Haden (who plays the Barbican on 21-22 May) and his landmark recordings with Ornette Coleman in the 1950s or with Keith Jarrett in the 70s might find his now 25-year-old Quartet West overly graceful by comparison – even more so now that it has been augmented with six low-lights singers and a swoony strings ensemble. But Haden's patient lyricism and devotion to classic song melody always exhibit a disguised intensity and a flawless touch. Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renée Fleming and the bassist's vocalist wife, Ruth Cameron, join the band for this seductively intimate sway through a repertoire of famous and lesser-known standard songs, but the coolly grooving instrumental quartet also has half the running time to itself, for a typically surefooted series of improvisations featuring saxophonist Ernie Watts and pianist Alan Broadbent.
Bassist extraordinaire Charlie Haden has always prized diversity in his music, whether reaching for the outer limits with Ornette Coleman a half-century ago, leading his own experimental Liberation Music Orchestra or, in 2008, celebrating his roots in what's now called Americana on Rambling Boy, a Grammy-nominated album that featured contributions from Elvis Costello, Béla Fleck, and others. As they mark their 25th year together, Haden's Quartet West -- not so much a side trip at this point as a comfy base to occasionally return to -- offers up Sophisticated Ladies, a collection split between collaborations with superstar female vocalists and rich instrumentals, nearly all of it heavily orchestrated. The set expands upon the concept Haden first explored in 1999 on The Art of the Song, which utilized vocalists Shirley Horn and Bill Henderson on various film songs and standards.
Bassist and bandleader Charlie Haden has been involved in many strange projects. He spent his early days in the ‘60s as a player in Ornette Coleman free jazz band, followed by work in pianist Keith Jarrett’s American trio. His ‘70s work included gigging with Carla Bley in the experimental and political Liberation Music Orchestra, and one-off’s with fusion jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and avant-garde composer Yoko Ono.
Its emotional resonances hover on the right side of poignant. Martin Longley 2010 This is a very different kind of Quartet West album. Charlie Haden's long-established institution is augmented by, decorated and engorged with, a series of female songbirds, gathered together on a mission of emotive ballad interpretation. Pianist Alan Broadbent is also conducting a string orchestra, utilising his own wide-vista arrangements.