Charlie Haden – Nocturne (2001)

FrontCover1Charles Edward Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014) was an American jazz double bass player, bandleader, composer and educator whose career spanned more than 50 years. In the late 1950s, he was an original member of the ground-breaking Ornette Coleman Quartet.

Haden revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing in jazz. German musicologist Joachim-Ernst Berendt wrote that Haden’s “ability to create serendipitous harmonies by improvising melodic responses to Coleman’s free-form solos (rather than sticking to predetermined harmonies) was both radical and mesmerizing. His virtuosity lies…in an incredible ability to make the double bass ‘sound out’. Haden cultivated the instrument’s gravity as no one else in jazz. He is a master of simplicity which is one of the most difficult things to achieve.” Haden played a vital role in this revolutionary new approach, evolving a way of playing that sometimes complemented the soloist and sometimes moved independently.

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In this respect, as did his predecessor bassists Jimmy Blanton and Charles Mingus, Haden helped liberate the bassist from a strictly accompanying role to becoming a more direct participant in group improvisation. In 1969, he formed his first band, the Liberation Music Orchestra, featuring arrangements by pianist Carla Bley. In the late 1960s, he became a member of pianist Keith Jarrett’s trio, quartet and quintet. In the 1980s, he formed his band, Quartet West. Haden also often recorded and performed in a duo setting, with musicians including guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Hank Jones.

Nocturne is an album by American jazz musician Charlie Haden, released through Universal/Polygram in 2001. In 2002, the album won Haden the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.(wikipedia)

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At a time when the big jazz record companies have opened their archives to sample-hungry producers of the younger generation or to superficially utility-oriented compilations with titles like “Schmuse-Jazz”, Charlie Haden’s “Nocturne” comes just in time as the answer of an old master.

Their similarities in tempo and gesture make the eleven pieces, most of them classics of Latin American boleros, suitable for unobtrusive background music, which, however, does not hurt to listen to: it is mild, but not tepid music that the bassist has recorded on this album with the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, drummer Ignácio Berroa and four prominent guest musicians.


The fact that Haden and Rubalcaba – the master of the self-contained bass playing and the sometimes breath-taking, explosive pianist – do not stand in each other’s way musically, but can complement each other perfectly, has already been proven by both in early trio recordings. They have known each other for 15 years. Their 1989 performance at the Montréal Jazz Festival together with the idiosyncratic drummer Paul Motian was released on CD only four years ago.

On “Nocturnes”, the two meet in a restrained playing that does not let the emotionally charged music slip into the overly cloying, even in the first piece of the CD, the classic “En La Orilla Del Mundo”. After all, it is orchestrated with strings and wind instruments. It is wonderful how the sound of Joe Levano’s tenor saxophone approaches Federico Britos Ruiz’s violin tone when both play the theme to each other.


It is subtleties like these that make one become more and more absorbed in this music, even with casual listening: Pat Metheny’s dance-like improvisations on “Nocturnal”, the filigree piano figure with which Rubalcaba opens and ends “No Te Empenes Más”, Haden’s pensive bass solo on “El Ciego” or the witty comments, with which Rubalcaba and the second tenor player on the recording, David Sánchez, contrast the uniformity of the boleros in “Contigo En La Distancia / En Nosostros” with the well-measured accent and drive and colouring of jazz close to the blues.


“Nocturne” is music of simple beauty, yet not simple music. The classic boleros, mostly Cuban and Mexican hits from the 1930s to the 1950s, stand up to the combination with two of Haden’s own compositions – “Moonlight” and “Nightfall” – and another piece by Rubalcaba played without percussion. And the multinational group of musicians who recorded it – besides Cubans Rubalcaba and Berroa, Uruguayan Ruiz and Puerto Rican Sánchez, US-Americans Haden, Levano and Metheny – ensure the nightly relaxed presentness of this recording. (Fridtjof Küchemann)


Ignacio Berroa (drums)
Charlie Haden (bass)
Joe Lovano (saxophone)
Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano)
Pat Metheny (guitar on 02.)
Federico Britos Ruiz (violin on 01., 05. + 08.)
David Sanchez (saxophone on 06. + 10.)


01. En la Orilla del Mundo (At The Edge Of The World) (Rojas) 5.13
02. Noche de Ronda (Night Of Wandering) (Lara) 5.40
03. Nocturnal (Marroquín/Mojica) 6.49
04. Moonlight (Claro de Luna) (Haden) 5.35
05. Yo Sin Ti (Me Without You) (Castro) 5.58
06. No Te Empeñes Mas (Don’t Try Anymore) (Valdés) 5.27
07. Transparence (Rubalcaba) 6.09
08. El Ciego (The Blind) (Manzanero) 5.53
09. Nightfall (Haden) 6.33
10. Tres Palabras (Three Words) (Farrés) 6.11
11. Contigo en la Distancia/En Nosotros (With You In The Distance/In Us) (Luz/Castellanos) 6.29




More from Charlie Haden:

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