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November 1999

Charlie Haden Quartet West
The Art of the Song
Verve

Charlie Haden's Quartet West is a wonder. A throwback to a more romantic era, at least as far as popular movies and music are concerned, Haden's foursome has resuscitated a lush yet astringent romanticism whose lyricism, harmonic colors and understated pulse quicken the heart. It's a romanticism at once timeless and urgent, embodying what philosophers once called the beautiful. Inscribed over the noirish palimpsest of 1940s popular culture, it's music for adults, an experience for the mind as well as for the senses.

In this outing, Haden's goal was to assemble a program of classic yet underappreciated songs. Caressed by pianist Alan Broadbent's gorgeous arrangements for chamber string orchestra, the Quartet (with Broadbent, tenor saxophonist Ernie Watt and drummer Larance Marable) neon-ize such glowing fare as Leonard Bernstein's "Lonely Town" and Jerome Kern's "In Love in Vain." Also featured are the exquisitely weathered Shirley Horn and Bill Henderson, whose heart-on-sleeve vocals embody as well as define class.

Other breathtaking moments come with Broadbent's paean to the classical Hollywood film, "Scenes From a Silver Screen," and several shimmering treatments of Rachmaninov and Ravel, plus Haden's poignant vocal debut in the haunting folk ballad, "Wayfaring Stranger."

Originally published in November 1999
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