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Charlie Haden/John Taylor Nightfall Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Charlie Haden indulges his passion for duos, with renowned UK pianist John Taylor.

Ian Latham 2004

This latest recording featuring home grown musical treasure John Taylor finds him in musical partnership with superstar US bass player Charlie Haden. It is wonderful to be witnessing something of a continued renaissance in John Taylor's career. Finally this master pianist seems to be gaining some of the international acclaim that he so richly deserves.

The set was recorded just outside Los Angeles at the arts school utopia of CalArts where Haden has been the resident jazz bass teacher for many years. Taylor's presence here must have been a welcome breath of fresh air in the be-bop obsessed Californian jazz world.

Nightfall is an album of deeply introspective ballads. The partnership of these two experimental but extraordinarily melodic and expressive players is ideal. One senses that this is music for musicians.

The album opens with Haden's composition "Chairman Mao" with its pentatonic unison melody.Taylor strums the strings of the piano to great effect, evoking the sound of the Chinese zither. Similar in its experimental nature with regard to sonority is the Song For The Whale in which Haden manages to tease sounds from his bass incredibly reminiscent of whale song itself. This may go some way to explain the recent spate of hitherto unexplained beachings!

The other tracks on this album are closer to the side of Taylor's current musical style that we have become accustomed to through his ECM recordings with Peter Erskine. Nightfall perfectly showcases his lyrical sensibility and mastery of form. There is a delicacy and harmony (in the spiritual sense) that somehow challenges the dominance of frenetic urban jazz.

"Windfall", one of Taylor's own compositions, reveals a more urgent, irrepressible side to his musical palette. His control of mood and intensity is immaculate as he draws the leisurely gait of the composition into a more restless, questioning mood in the improvisation. This level of control is something that most jazz pianists can only dream of.

It is a real pleasure to listen to the quiet power of these master musicians who treat jazz as high art. Let's hope that this transatlantic collaboration is developed further.

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