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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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CHARLIE HADEN

The Best of Quartet West

Verve 530 210-7

 

 

 
1. Hello My Lovely
2. Body And Soul
3. First Song (For Ruth)
4. Our Spanish Love Song
5. Always Say Goodbye
6. Où Es Tu, Mon Amour?
7. Here's Looking At You
8. Alone Together
9. The Left Hand Of God
10. Lonely Town
11. Moonlight Serenade
12. Wayfaring Stranger
 
 
Charlie Haden – Bass, vocals
Alan Broadbent – Piano
Ernie Watts – Tenor sax
Larance Marable – Drums (tracks 1, 3-12)
Billy Higgins – Drums (track 2)
Stephane Grappelli – Violin (track 6)
Shirley Horn – Vocals (track 10)
Murray Adler – Violin solo (track 10)

Charlie Haden formed his Quartet West in 1985, and named it because he had moved back to Los Angeles from New York in 1980. Haden has played with many avant-garde musicians, including Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry and Roswell Rudd, but the music of Quartet West is more conventional – even, at times, slightly old-fashioned. This mirrors Charlie's obsession with film noir: the movies starring Humphrey Bogart and his contemporaries. In fact the titles of some tracks on this album reflect this interest.

Yet the music is not hard-hitting: on the contrary, it is generally understated and introverted, consisting predominantly of slow ballads. The downside to this is that some of the tunes sound like slushy background music rather than jazz pieces. Here's Looking at You and The Left Hand of God use lush string arrangements which dilute the jazz content. However, Ernie Watts's theme statement on the former track is emotionally expressive. In fact Ernie's playing is the most vibrant aspect of this album, since he can be eloquently lyrical in a ballad like First Song but he also adds a muscular edge to tracks like Hello My Lovely. Alan Broadbent is another enterprising player whose solos add to the appeal of several tracks.

Charlie Haden's own bass playing is less exciting. He states the themes of Alone Together and The Left Hand of God rather dourly. The former merges unaccountably into Jo Stafford's vocal version of the song, recorded in 1945 with Paul Weston's orchestra. It reminds us of that Jo was a fine vocalist but her presence is mystifying. Moonlight Serenade is just as puzzling: introduced on bass by Haden in a way that doesn't necessarily make the tune clear (in fact it sounds more like Embraceable You or Dancing in the Dark), until the tenor sax enters for the middle eight to make things clear. Charlie even tries singing on Wayfaring Stranger, where his tremulous uncertainty fits the mood but hardly passes for jazz.

Like most of Charlie Haden's work, this album is never less than interesting, but I found it slightly less than uplifting.

Tony Augarde

 

 

 

 



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