Music corner: Charlie Haden and the art of the duo

November 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Friday 11 July 2014 was a very sad day, and I didn’t even know until later, when finally reading an obituary of Charlie Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014): A wonderful double base player, shining in particular in a string (indeed) of duos with many of the Jazz’ and Blues’ other greats and greatest. My favourite musician? Too many different ones actually, in all genres, from Brendel to Coltrane to Queen and so on – but one of them, certainly. And for me – with a particular preference for small formations, including solo music – Charlie Haden will always remain a true master of the duo.

My first encounter with Charlie Haden was the album he had recorded with guitarist Pat Metheny in 1996, “beyond the Missouri Sky (short stories)”: there are not many friends of mine who similarly love all kinds of good music and who didn’t receive this CD with wonderfully relaxed and quiet sounds as a gift. In similar fashion and recorded in the same year, “Night and The City” with pianist Kenny Barron, another gem of a CD. Both albums also feature one of Charlie Haden’s greatest standards, “Waltz for Ruth” (Ruth Cameron and Charlie Haden were married in 1989, and many of Charlie’s records were co-produced by Ruth). Or, very different and yet so similar, “Steal away” with blues pianist Hank Jones, recorded in 1994, a collection of spirituals, hymns and folk songs which never fail to transport me back in time, to the Sunday mornings in the village church of my youth.

These titles were followed by a long series of CD acquisitions of all sorts, with Charlie Haden in duos, trios and larger groups, making him one of the musicians with the broadest representation in our collection. And then one day, while travelling for business, in a dreary hotel in some unexciting part of the world, I turned on the TV to see Charlie Haden and – Keith Jarrett! – playing along together in what looked like somebody’s living room: now surely that would be the recording of a life time, or so I thought, only to find out that none seemed to exist to let us aficionados savour time and again the unique spirit of that encounter. The “living room” was actually Keith Jarrett’s own small studio, and in 2010 Manfred Eicher and his label ECM thankfully saved the anxiously waiting community with the release of “Jasmine”, the first of now two CDs celebrating this outstanding cooperation – the second one being “Last Dance” (also ECM), an ominous title and fitting tribute, published less than a month before Charlie Haden’s subsequent passing away.

Recommended listening (in alphabetical order of duo partners)

  • “None But The Lonely Heart” with pianist Chris Anderson (Naim 1997)
  • “Night and The City” with pianist Kenny Barron (Verve 1996)
  • “Gitane” with guitarist Christian Escoudé (Disques Dreyfus 1991)
  • “In Montreal” with Egberto Gismonti on guitar and piano (ECM 2001)
  • “As Long As There’s Music” with pianist Hampton Hawes (Verve 1993)
  • “Jasmine” and “Last Dance” with pianist Keith Jarrett (ECM 2010 / 2014)
  • “Steal Away” with pianist Hank Jones (Verve 1995)
  • “beyond the Missouri Sky (short stories)” with guitarist Pat Metheny (Verve 1997)
  • “Dialogues” with guitarist Carlos Paredes (Polydor 1990)
  • “Nightfall” with pianist John Taylor (Verve 2004)

and many more, also in larger formations …

Thank you very much indeed, Charlie Haden, for all the wonderful music – quiet music, even silent music – you have left us. RIP.


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