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Charlie Haden with Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Land of the Sun

Charlie Haden

Surprising as it may seem, Charlie Haden, who shook jazz’s foundation playing bass in Ornette Coleman’s first quartet, is now recording Latin American lullabies. With 2001’s Nocturne he consummated his love affair with the bolero, teaming with pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, drummer/percussionist Ignacio Berroa and several guests (including Pat Metheny and Joe Lovano) on a rigorously mellow set of Latin ballads. Now, after detouring with the puzzling American Dreams in 2002, Haden offers chapter two of his bolero book, Land of the Sun, a study in muted, calming colors, silky-smooth tempos and cascades of pure melody. Haden achieves a greater rhythmic and tonal variety here than on Nocturne, but as before, he can be repetitive and, at times, overly sweet.

One song on Nocturne, “Nocturnal,” was written by the Mexican composer Jose Sabre Marroquin. On Land of the Sun, Haden devotes 80 percent of the program to Marroquin’s sensual compositions. Sharing album-cover billing with Haden this time, Rubalcaba invests tremendous soul and sensitivity in the material. Berroa also returns, with his flawless time and delicate brushwork. The recording is beautiful: one can hear the falling weight of fingers against keys, not to mention every detail of Berroa’s percussion. (But to hear Berroa and Rubalcaba really flex their muscles, pick up Rubalcaba’s new Blue Note release, the gripping Paseo, featuring electric bass virtuoso Jose Armando Gola.)

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