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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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CHARLIE HADEN

Sophisticated Ladies

Emarcy 0602527508160

 

 


1 If I'm Lucky (Edgar De Lange & Josef Myrow)[5:41]
2 Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington, Mitchell Parish & Irving Mills)[4:28]
3 Ill Wind (Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler)[4:25]
4 Today I'm a Man (Steve Khun)[5:23]
5 My Love and I (Johnny Mercer & David Raksin)[4:14]
6 Theme from "Markham" (Stanley Wilson)[4:40]
7 Let's Call it a Day (Lew Brown & Ray Henderson)[5:52]
8 Angel Face (Hank Jones)[4:08]
9 A Love Like This (Ned Washington & Victor Young)[5:13]
10 My Old Flame ( Sam Coslow & Arthur Johnson)[5:35]
11 Goodbye (Gordon Jenkins)[5:48]
12 Wahoo (Bennie Harris - arranged by Charlie Haden)[4:52]

Charlie Haden Quartet West; Charlie Haden:Bass, Ernie Watts:Tenor Sax, Alan Broadbent:Piano & Rodney Green:Drums
With String Orchestras Arranged & Conducted by Alan Broadbent, Quartet Arrangements by Charlie Haden.
Track 1:Vocals by Melody Gardot with Quartet and Strings.
Track 2: Quartet with String accompaniment.
Track 3:Vocals by Norah Jones.
Track 5:Vocals by Cassandra Wilson with Quartet and Strings.
Track 7:Vocals by Ruth Cameron with Quartet and Strings.
Track 9:Vocals by Renée Fleming with Quartet and Strings.
Track 11:Vocals by Diana Krall with Quartet and Strings.
All other tracks:Charlie Haden Quartet West.

Recorded in Studio B, Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California , USA, on May 20 & 21, 2010, Avatar Studios, New York, USA, on June 4, 2010 and additional recording there on July 12 and 26, 2010.

 

Now here's an unusual disc - a mixture of quartet solos and quartet backing to some great singers, sometimes with the accompaniment of string orchestras. At first I thought I wouldn't find it my cup of tea but have been totally won over by such a clever and thoughtfully put together album that showcases both the quartet and the singers to fabulous effect. The liner notes explain that it was a project dreamed up by Charlie Haden and producer Jean-Philippe Allard who had cooperated some years before. The idea was to follow up a previous Quartet West album entitled "The Art of Song", with the late, great Shirley Horn, with one on which they featured their favourite contemporary jazz singers. This was eagerly accepted by the singers concerned, namely Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Cameron, Renée Fleming and Diana Krall. The disc gets off to a great start with Melody Gardot, a rising star, singing "If I'm lucky" in the most wonderfully expressive way, perfectly accompanied by a laid back quartet sound with beautiful solos from Alan Broadbent and Ernie Watts and a lush sound from the strings. The next singer up is Norah Jones whose choice of song "Ill Wind" was somewhat of a surprise to Charlie and Jean-Phillipe as she usually prefers to sing her own compositions but she said she'd always wanted to sing this number which she felt would be best suited to a simple trio accompaniment which was made possible by Charlie Haden's arrangement for piano, bass and drums, the result is a real bluesy feel with Norah's quite unique voice. The next `sophisticated lady' at the mike is Cassandra Wilson whose rendition of "My Love and I" is a premiŠre recording since it was discovered that the words by Johnny Mercer had never been recorded before - indeed no-one was sure there were any words! "Let's call it a Day" sung by Ruth Cameron, Charlie Haden's wife, is the next song sung and very lovely it is too as is Ruth's voice that I'd never heard before. Track 9 had another favourite singer of Charlie's stepping up to the plate - none other than Ren‚e Fleming, with "A Love like This". Now usually opera singers struggle to sing jazz songs as their voices are, well, just too operatic (this is why the famous recording of West Side Story with Jos‚ Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa was not really so successful with lovers of the musical). Of course it's the exception that proves the rule and, although Ren‚e is not alone she certainly dispels any such fears as hers is a gorgeously sumptuous example of how it should be done and is a real surprise and a tribute to a great artist who can turn her voice from grand opera to the Great American Songbook with effortless ease. Diana Krall is the last of the `sophisticates' to perform and keeps up the high standard of the disc singing "Goodbye" with huge feeling for the lyrics. What is a real plus on this album is that the songs are not the usual ones to found on most discs of jazz singers and there were some that were completely new to me. The string accompaniment backing them on several tracks was perfectly in keeping with the songs and in no way `schmaltzy'. As for the remaining tracks that intersperse the songs the Charlie Haden Quartet West come into their own and show why the quartet has had such well-deserved success over so many years. Every tune is a perfect demonstration of the quartet's huge musical ability and it was very poignant to note that "Angel Face" is played as a tribute to its composer Hank Jones who died aged 92, during the production process - a fitting musical farewell to a great artist. I especially enjoyed "My Old Flame" that so aptly shows Charlie's beautifully lyrical bass playing. All in all a really unusual disc that presents 6 fabulously talented jazz singers and a hugely impressive quartet - the perfect recipe for musical bliss.

Steve Arloff



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