World music is now well established with festivals (of which the annual
WOMAD is both the best and the best known) and record labels (World
Circuit, Sterns, Globestyle and the rest) seemingly well established and
financially secure. Time then to move on and find new music and musicians
to soothe the troubled brow and give the establishment pop a walloping.
These days, I'm looking more at jazz for sources of mood music, and in this article I'm going to focusing on a musician who is well-known and highly regarded within jazz circles, but hardly known at all outside.
Charles Edward Haden, or Charlie as he is more familiarly known, was born in Shenandoah, Idaho in 1937. He gravitated to bass early in his musical career, and was first featured in the late '50's on records and in the live ensembles of Art pepper and Hampton Hawes. However, it was his period in the Quartet formed by Ornette Coleman (which also included trumpeter Don Cherry, father of Neneh and Eagle-Eye!, and Billy Higgins on drums) in the mid sixties which brought Haden's genius to the attention of the jazz cognoscenti. Coleman's extraordinary playing demanded the highest skill from his accompanists, and it was in the fire of Coleman's improvisatory genius that the reputations of the other three members of the quartet were formed. However, Haden has gone on to form not only his own big band, The Liberation Music Orchestra, but to play in small ensembles and duos with the likes of Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny.
For the purposes of this piece, I'm going to mention two of Haden's recent collaborations, similar in style but different in content. Pat Metheny and Haden have been friends for long time (Metheny was best man at Haden's wedding), and though they have played in ensembles together, most notably Metheny's 80/81 ensemble, they had never recorded together as a duo. Well, now they have and "Beyond The Missouri Sky" (Verve) is the result. If there is one constant criticism of Metheny it is that he coasts too much, and occasionally uses flash where feeling would be better. On this occasion the teaming with his buddy, who is ostensibly the featured artist and who chose the material on the album, seems to have concentrated his mind and his playing, like Haden's, is lyrical and emotional without a hint of the pretension which sometimes mars his ensemble work. Contemplative yet demanding, this is a fine, fine album.
Haden's most recent release is another duo record, but this time he is happy to take second place to a performer even more unknown than he. Chris Anderson was born in Chicago in 1926, is a totally self-taught pianist and despite periods playing with the likes of Dinah Washington, Sonny Stitt and Charlie Parker is almost unknown outside of US jazz musician circles. Now blind and suffering from brittle bone disease, Chris was tempted into the studio by the thought of playing with Haden, and the result of their efforts, "None But The Lonely Heart", has just been released on the Naim label. This record is very much the Chris Anderson show, with some rich, intricate chordal harmonies and superb improvisation. Yet again, however, it displays how good a bassist Haden is, as he fills in behind and around Anderson's melodies without either intruding on the lead but at the same time filling in all the spaces eloquently. A more intense album than the Metheny effort, the mood is still tranquil and it makes superb late night listening.
Stay tuned next issue for some more highlights from the world of jazz.
Photo Credit: The Mollis
Colin Jones runs the English label Rhiannon Records, and is contributor of Folk Roots, Rock'n'Reel and First Hearing magazines.
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