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Artist: Charlie Haden+ Paul Bley
Performance date: August 13, 2002
Charlie Haden & Paul Bley: Back Together Again

Birthday Bass Boy Bounces Back

Concert Review by: Mark Keresman


Venue: The Blue Note (New York City)

8/13/2002 - [As Mr. Haden’s Saturday night show was covered on this very site a few days ago, just a brief intro/recap:] Composer/bandleader Charlie Haden has been one of THE jazz bass giants to come of age in the post-bop generation. Aside from his many recordings as a leader (of Liberation Music Orchestra and Quartet West) and a member of Magico, Haden has performed and/or recorded with a veritable Who’s Who: Chet Baker, Jimmy Rowles, Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, Ginger Baker, Don Cherry and even the minimalist punk-funk trio The Minutemen and alt-rock icon Beck. To celebrate his 65th birthday, Haden has been performing a two-week series of duets with several ace piano players at NYC’s Blue Note. Saturday’s show found him paired with Geri Allen – tonight, with the legendary pianist Paul Bley.

At one time, Bley, Haden, Cherry, Coleman and Billy Higgins were a band in Los Angeles in the late 50s. The rest is indeed history: Bley pursued career as an iconoclastic, often brilliant pianist and the other four fellows stuck together to become the Fab Four of Free Jazz. Bley has played/recorded with Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Giuffre and Charlie Mingus, was one of the first jazz musicians (if not THE first ever) to play a Moog synthesizer and recorded many superb albums of unaccompanied piano. Tonight two of these guys get right back to where they started from and it was indeed a rare, brightly shining thing. Bley has “mellowed” somewhat – whereas in the past he could be overly, aridly cerebral and dryly minimalist (in the sense of Monk, not Phillip Glass), a richer, rhapsodic, more genial nature can be detected now. He still retains the “cerebral” aspect as in that his playing is very often beautiful without any gooey sentimentality or schmaltz, and he never “crowds” the notes with any excess or flash. But make no mistake: he still has the spiky sense of freedom, and his quiet, brainy fire still burns. Haden, his usual impeccable, big-toned self, seemed to defer a bit to Bley, though he did shine with some mighty, throbbing unaccompanied solos and some sure, solid swing. The place was PACKED with rapt customers, which is as it should be.


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