The Art of the Song

COMPOSERS: Charlie Haden Quartet West
PERFORMER: Charlie Haden (b), Alan Broadbent (p), Ernie Watts (ts), Larance Marable (d), Shirley Horn (v), Bill Henderson (v), plus chamber orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: 547 403-2


Bassist Charlie Haden’s musical landscape is as wide as the mid-Western sky he grew up under. Forty years ago he was a founder member of the ground breaking Ornette Coleman quartet, and later leader of his own wild outfit, the Liberation Music Orchestra. But in the last 10 years, form and melody have taken hold and with his Quartet West the 62 year old has made a series of understated masterpieces.

Unlike previous QW recordings, whose mood inducing device was the subtle intercutting of recordings from another era (Chet Baker, big band singers, Stephane Grappelli), the vintage voices of Horn and Henderson are the central attraction here. Fans will be pleased to know that the movie score ambience is retained: Broadbent is still writing deluxe strings charts and Watts’ elegaic tenor lines bring you to tears quicker than chopping onions.


As for Haden, his anchoring of the melody in the predominantly down-tempo numbers simply gets better with time. And there’s something new – Haden himself sings, albeit in a light, frail voice, but as usual without pretension and straight to the heart. Garry Booth