Charlie Haden and Jim Hall – Charlie Haden-Jim Hall (2014)

Share this:

Charlie Haden could be as avant garde as anyone, an envelope pusher of the first degree. But, as this previously unreleased 1990 pairing with Jim Hall at the Montreal Jazz Festival illustrates, there was another side to the late bassist — a confidential and warm side.

Deep-toned and ardent at times, clipped and astronautic at others, Haden brought a depth to his playing — to all of his catalog — that made every album a fervently anticipated adventure. Certainly, that’s the case with Charlie Haden-Jim Hall, a new Impulse project seeing release this week just months after Haden’s untimely passing. And not just because of the attendant nostalgia.

Hall, of course, was no jazz buccaneer, choosing instead to play with a gentle facility that belied his deep well of knowledge. That ended up making him the perfect duo foil, however, as heard on shared recordings with Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Ron Carter and George Shearing, among others. The same holds true here, as Hall typically works in the subtlest of shadings. Even when he darts out to the front, it’s often with a smooth deprecation. Hall was, until the end, a master of quiet understatement.

Together over the eight-song menu of Charlie Haden-Jim Hall, they throw each other’s best-known skills, and their lesser-known other sides, into high relief. Haden reaches emotional depths that might be surprising for those who only know him from his more free-form work, and Hall reveals the all-encompassing wit that made him an inspiration for Metheny and Bill Frisell.

Witness “First Song,” which finds Haden adding flinty dissonance to Hall’s gorgeous lines, or “Turnaround,” which allows Hall to expand upon a sharp-edged blues. More straight forward readings of ballads like “Body and Soul” and “Skylark” are balanced by the lightly experimental “Down from Antigua” and then by a deliciously adventurious turn at the bow from Haden on “In the Moment,” which may be the closest this evening got to an outside moment.

Only the opening track, a surprising choice in Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing,” reveals the tentativeness that new collaborations sometimes engender at first. From there, Charlie Haden-Jim Hall becomes a study in how two masters can lure out fresh revelations in one another. The results are even better than expected — and that’s saying a whole lot.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close