Sunday, November 27, 2011

Music from the heartland: Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

To truly enjoy tonight’s post you need to do one of three things:

   1.    Put on some noise cancelling headphones.
   2.    Wait till everyone is out of the house and turn up the stereo. 
   3.    Make a cup of your favorite drink and sit in a comfortable arm  chair with ears close to the speakers.

This is subtle, quiet music. It is powerful but not loud. It deserves to be heard in its own right and not as background musak at a dinner party.  It is acoustic music and you need to let your ears pick up the unrushed notes.

Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden, a country boy from Iowa, is a contemporary master of the double bass.  Although his early prominence in jazz circles came through his association with some of the music’s most radical free-jazz composers like Ornette Coleman, Haden has never been able to shake his affection for the folk music and hymns he grew up listening to as a boy on the farm in the Midwest.

In the 1970’s and 80’s through his collaboration with Carla Bley and a whole gaggle of other prominent jazz musicians Haden made several overtly political recordings with a focus on the injustices and liberation struggles of the Latin American people. 

“No other instrument in jazz is more essential than the bass, both backbone and heartbeat, and Haden is its master.” (Francis Davis The Atlantic Monthly) Haden played a vital role in this revolutionary new approach, evolving a way of playing that sometimes complemented the soloist and sometimes moved independently. In this respect, Haden helped liberate the bassist from a strictly accompanying role to becoming a more direct participant in group improvisation.

Hank Jones
Hank Jones comes from one of the great jazz families, being the eldest of three brothers who all were significant musicians in their own right. Hank began performing as a very young teenager and in the 1940s moved to New York where he built a career as a pianist working with many of the great names of the bebop era such as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery.
His ability to both accompany and support band leaders as well as solo made him a very in demand session player and he appeared on countless major and influential jazz recordings in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs is quite simply one of my favorite records of all time. Given the innovative and exploratory nature of Haden’s musical journey and the straight ahead jazz Jones played for most of his career, the simple, almost humble tone of this record comes as a pleasant surprise. These are some of the most famous selections from the great American hymnbook played sincerely, with no trickery or irony. Just an hour of wonderful piano and luscious double bass stealing you away from your preoccupations, worries and exhaustions. Both men share the limelight (if you can call it that), taking turns leading and soloing as well as supporting the other when he’s got something to say.  Listen once, and you’ll play this again and again.

            Track Listing:
            01 It's Me , O Lord, (Standin' in the Need of Prayer)
02 Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen
03 Spiritual
04 Wade in the Water
05 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
06 Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child
07 L'amour de Moy
08 Danny Boy
09 I've Got a Robe, You Got a Robe
10 Steal Away
11 We Shall Overcome
12 Go Down, Moses
13 My Lord What a Mornin'
14 Hymn Medley: Abide With Me/Just As I am/What a Friend We Have in Jesus/Amazing Grace
 Listen here.

1 comment:

ajnabi said...

To Anonymous,
Thank you for the kind words you apparently posted but which never appeared here. Send me your email and I'll be in touch.