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Charlie Haden/Jim Hall: Charlie Haden/Jim Hall

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Cut at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in July 1990, this Haden-Hall bass/guitar duet album smacks of affinity, several ways over. The opening “Bemsha Swing” commences with a super-fluid Haden bass riff, nailing the song’s outside-of-time feel while creating a distinctly ebon and quiet sound space for Hall’s guitar to come ambling in and try any manner of different directions. There’s flamenco chording, a chipper, almost Don Ho-like aside, but with the tunefulness of Charlie Christian in the Minton’s recordings. Not a bad little opener.

Haden’s original “First Song” continues this notion of flow, and just when everything feels mellow yet protean, like this is real primal start-of-the-earth stuff, the pair navigates into the all-out jaunt of Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround.” Hall works in a “Blue Monk” quote, as though nodding back to the record’s start, an entry point left far behind by now.

Haden’s bass takes goodly chunks of the following “Body and Soul” for itself, but these two players are so free that bass can function as guitar, and now it is guitar that provides the rhythmic underpinning normally associated with the bass. That is, until roles reverse again, and Hall uncorks quick little riffs that seem to chase their own tails.

The Hall original “Down From Antigua” marks another easygoing highlight, with its faux clippity-clompity intro suggesting a jazzed-up version of Gene Autry. Soon enough, enticingly askew guitar voicings take these dusty trails on into the Buck Rogers zone, where affinity is cast anew once again.

Originally Published