Charlie Haden –Bass
Michael Brecker – Tenor sax
Brad Mehldau – Piano
Brian Blade – Drums
And a 34 piece orchestra
An album organised by bass player Charlie Haden together with
Michael Brecker on tenor, promises to be something special. Both
musicians have been extremely influential throughout the last
decade of jazz and this album does not disappoint. Charlie Haden
in the sleeve note talks of his ability to dream and to use his
imagination. This album is dedicated as a tribute to the America
that ‘should be and could be great’. An America with all of its
immense creative talent, but without the cruelty and greed from
which it suffers. These are indeed high ideals. The contribution
of Brad Mehldau on piano and Brian blade should not be overlooked
and nor should the excellent string orchestra, who help considerably
in creating the dream like quality of a number of the tracks.
Charlie Haden wrote the tune of the title track and it is a feature
for his excellent bass playing, he produces an excellent tone
from the instrument and also an interesting flow of improvisation.
On all the remaining tracks
Michael Brecker is present and I have never heard him play better.
There is a warmth of tone and depth of feeling here, that he has
not exhibited to the same degree before, although one sensed it
was always there. On ‘Travels’ he plays the theme exquisitely
and although I am not a great fan of Metheny compositions, I have
to confess that this one is exceptional and does not suffer from
the lack of melody I have come across previously. Brecker is now
the complete saxophone player in terms of tone, technique and
inspired improvisation and his playing on this record puts him
in a league beyond most of his contemporaries.
Two tunes in which Dave Grusin had a hand, ‘It Might Be You’
and ‘Love Like Ours’ are included, Dave can always be relied on
to come up with interesting original compositions, ‘Prism’ a Keith
Jarrett composition has an excellent solo from Brad Mehidau on
piano, who is one of the outstanding contributors to this album.
Charlie Haden states the melody on ‘America the Beautiful’ and
demonstrates the art of the possible on his instrument. ‘Nightfall’
is another Haden composition and he takes the first solo followed
by Mehidau and then some more sublime tenor from Brecker, who
seems to hear every possible avenue of improvisation on any given
‘Young and Foolish’ has always proved to be an inspirational
vehicle for improvisation. I first heard it featured by Tubby
Hayes in the 1950’s and here it is in an album recorded this year
and sounding just as fresh. I had not heard ‘Bird Food’ an Ornette
Coleman composition before and it was nice to hear the quartet
switch into bebop mode.
On my first hearing of the album, I wondered whether it would
have benefited from a wider tempo range, but on second hearing
and bearing in mind it is an album of dreams, I concluded that
it is about as perfect an album as I have ever heard.