Artist: Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau
Album: Long Ago And Far Away
Genre: Mainsream Jazz, Contemporary Jazz
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Au Privave 09:55
My Old Flame 09:13
What’ll I Do 12:00
Long Ago And Far Away 15:05
My Love And I 12:59
Everything Happens To Me 12:37
The resurging Impulse label has brought us a 2007 live performance from the double bassist, the late Charlie Haden and pianist Brad Mehldau who performed for the first time as a duo at the Christuskirche in Mannheim, Germany during the Enjoy Jazz Festival. Long Ago and Far Away will add to the impressive catalog of the iconic Haden who passed in 2014. Although this is the fourth recorded collaboration between the two, it is the first without either saxophonist Lee Konitz or drummer Paul Motian. This allows pianist Mehldau to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of melody and he explores the themes deeply and creatively while the two produce harmonically rich and ever-inventive stream-of-consciousness soloing that float in and out of the conventional theme of the piece.
The program consists of mostly familiar standards that are turned inside out. They are: “Au Privave,” “My Old Flame,” “What Will I Do,” “Long Ago and Far Away,” “My Love and I” and “Everything Happens to Me.” It’s fascinating how they transform Parker’s “Au Privave” from a ballad into an exercise in free-form blues, the starkness and rather spookiness evoked in the title track as trumpeter Chet Baker’s 1955 version seems to echo through both instruments. Similar Baker effects appear in “Everything Happens to Me.”
Because the melodies of these tunes are familiar, the playing will at times seem deceptively simplistic before the intimacy of the conversations roam to unpredictable and mind-blowing solos that feed off the other. It can be highly lyrical while at times a bit puzzling why they venture into dark voids. This intensity leads to evocative atmospheres that often keep the listener guessing when the main theme will return, after being explored note by note, chord by chord in so much detail. As an example, listen to Mehldau’s playing toward the end of “What Will I Do” which begins well-structured and faithful to the original.
“My Love and I” is a high point in the concert. It’s a song that Haden recorded twice with the Quartet West and performed in duo with Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Haden plays in a rather understated way, staying low with his basslines while Mehldau improvises with his left hand while mirroring orchestrations with his right in the first half, only to reverse that pattern in the second half. Mid-piece Mehldau finds elements that contradict one another, repeats several sequences and retreats to singular notes, allowing Haden to state his own version of the theme before Mehldau returns to a crescendo of repetitive notes that dissolve into broken, dissonant chords.
The final piece, “Everything Happens to Me” might be the best example of Haden’s improvisations as he holds sway during the long choruses while Mehldau both briefly summarizes and improvises the theme before closing in almost classical fashion on solo piano.
We’ve heard these two before so in that sense, the individual playing is not surprising. It’s two masters at the top of their game, delivering a spontaneous, at times risky, but always relaxed approach to classic material that enables each to excel individually and in their inventive dialogues.
by Jim Hynes