Charlie Haden's Quartet West/'Haunted Heart'

Why the 'concept album' has a future

If asked to name two musicians who can make a solitary note sing I give you Lee Konitz and Charlie Haden. Two notes worth their weight in gold. Quartet West boasts a unique and related virtue. To my knowledge it is the only group to include Tristano material in its repertoire (only group outside of the soi-disent Tristano school). Does this matter much? Possibly not. But history has airbrushed Tristano from its selective memory. The standout track on 'Haunted Heart' is thus 'Lennie's Pennies'. For this listener Tristano's material has proved far more durable than most bebop anthems, a point reinforced by Ernie Watts' (tenor) disinclination to pay stylistic dues to either Konitz or Marsh during his assured chorus. Broadbent (piano) studied with Tristano and may have proposed the inclusion of the track. But Haden is blessed with a sense of history. Here's not the place to bemoan thé arbitrariness of so many 'concept' albums. Suffice that 'Haunted Heart' works and it works well. From the opening WB fanfare to the closing Billie Holiday number we are reminded of a golden âge of song-writing; an era the demise of which threw up some interesting challenges for our music. For those for whom Tristano's conception is anathema I recommend thé delicious take on 'Moonlight Serenade'. And yet this is not pure nostalgia. Original material from Haden - the customarily beautiful 'Hello my Lovely' - and pianist Broadbent dovetails respectfully and sensitively with the older material.

The technical highlight of 'Haunted Heart' is thé segueing of the Haden quartet's rendering into original version. Clever stuff no doubt. But it is beautifully pulled off. Unless my ears deceive me, the only blemish is the tonality problem when segueing from the quartet's rendering into Jerri Southern's definitive take on 'Every time we say goodbye'

That said 'Haunted Heart' is a contemporary classic with broad appeal. Jazz for the purist and the less committed alike.

There is (alas) a plethora of concept albums claiming to have fused two aesthetic media in a natural way. Much of it is, in my opinion, a contrivance. This is not to say that the music doesn't stand firm on its own two feet. So why the pretentious overlay. Haden's Quartet West is the perfect antidote to such folly. I commend it sans reservation.

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Ralph Brooker