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Charlie Haden: The Montreal Tapes with Geri Allen and Paul Motian

These are the third and fourth releases from Haden’s performances at the 1989 Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival honored the bassist with a series of eight concerts in which he led a different group each night. The set with Allen is prickly and often adventurous; the set with Rubalcaba is straightahead and romping. The Allen set sounds truer to Haden’s nature, judging by his past recordings.

The Allen set begins with “Blues in Motian,” with the pianist taking a playful, Monk-like spin that also includes a hint of rolling, Mary Lou Williams-style boogie-woogie. Haden’s bass solo begins as a stop-and-go lesson in blues fundamentals and advances to some of his patented melodic permutations. Motian’s drums introduce “Fiasco, the freest piece,” with Allen sending up Cecil Taylor-like flurries of notes, Haden bowing squeaks and snarls, and Motian offering vignettes of percussion. All three musicians are in good form throughout the six-tune set, and the performances seem to grow trellis-like from Haden’s strong, basic approach.

The next set is more a showcase for Rubalcaba’s virtuosic piano playing. (His rocketing runs on “Bay City,” “The Blessing,” and “Solar” suggest Oscar Peterson; on other tunes he sometimes recalls Keith Jarrett.) Haden seems more accompanist than leader on the album, and the electricity is different from the Allen set. Here, the electricity is smooth and efficient; there, it was jumpy and crackling.

Originally Published