Keth Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine on ECM

Charlie Haden
Keith Jarrett

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Bassist Charlie Haden has been down this path – a quiet, intimate, album-length session with a musically simpatico partner – in recent years, notably on Americana-tinged outings with late pianist Hank Jones and guitarist Pat Metheny. The format is similarly engaging on this reflective, brightly communicative set with long-ago bandmate Keith Jarrett, who seldom strays from his Standards Trio and solo-piano gigs.

What are the ties that bind the two (last together for a 2007 documentary on Haden)? For starters, there’s a poignant, searching quality to their phrase making. Then there’s the not-small matter of a willingness to directly respond to each other’s playing, rather than playing AT each other, as is too often the case when star musicians collaborate. The low-pressure setting – Jarrett’s home studio in New Jersey – doubtless abetted that high-level connectedness.

Some listeners may find fault with the extremely laidback pacing of the set, but others will discover that the harmonic richness of the affair more than compensates for a certain sameness in the tempos. A highlight is the standard “Body and Soul,” which opens in a somber mood, expands with Jarrett’s brilliant solo turn, lifts with a sweet double-time feel, and then settles back down with a typically graceful, stair-stepping improvisation by Haden, during which the pianist drops out for several bars at time.

“No Moon at All,” with its descending chord patterns, swings harder than the other pieces. “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” a Joe Sample/Will Jennings ballad recorded by Randy Crawford, is stately but subversively soulful. Bassists, and those with ears to hear, will marvel over the grace and imagination Haden demonstrates with his solo on “Where Can I Go Without You.” The closer, the Jerome Kern chestnut “Don’t Ever Leave Me,” at 3:11 the disc’s shortest track, is all elegance, heart, and musical smarts, qualities that inform nearly every piece on this remarkable pairing.