Reissue of live recordings celebrating Charlie Haden's 50th birthday.
Kathryn Shackleton 2007
As a 70th birthday present for US bassist Charlie Haden, Naim have dipped into their archives to release The Private Collection, a double album of live gigs recorded when he was 50. Originally released as 2 separate CDs, both feature personnel from Haden's Quartet West, the back-to-bebop band that he formed in the '80s. One CD was recorded at Charlie's 50th birthday gig in Santa Monica, and the other just a few months later in his home state of Missouri. At both he's playing for friends and family.
Haden's well known for his work with free-jazz pioneer, Ornette Coleman, which he acknowledges in his Missouri set, in a 22 minute rendition of Coleman's ''Lonely Woman'. Between Ernie Watts' violent sax squawks and Alan Broadbent's speeded-up piano, Haden inserts a simple down-home melody. It's not just a quote, it's the whole tune – like something from his family's country radio days - and its sheer simplicity contrasted against the dissonance around it makes it the weirdest thing he could have played.
''Lonely Woman'' isn’t typical of The Private Collection, though. Featuring three Charlie Parker tracks and three by Pat Metheny the rest is melodic, straight-ahead and mostly bebop-orientated. Ernie Watts shines in his role as frontman, the rich tone of his sax having a dynamic, rocky edge to it.
Haden's own ''Bay City'' is a beautiful melody, swinging and bluesy, and executed with style by Watts, Broadbent and Paul Motian on drums. The extended, meandering bass solo in the middle doesn't do justice to the piece, though; but in ''Silence'', also by Haden, Charlie redeems himself. Here, he makes his bass solo the crux of the music - a plaintive voice receding to a whisper, then humming with Broadbent's meditative piano and tolling behind Ernie Watt's soaring sax.
There's palpable enjoyment in each Charlie Parker piece. In ''Lisa'' and ''Passport'', Watts's sax flies on the bebop lines, as all the musicians embrace the fast swing. Bach's ''Etudes'', which ends the Santa Monica CD, stands in contrast to the ornate Parker pieces - being surprisingly moving, almost unadorned baroque. Strangely, ''Farmer's Trust'' by Pat Metheny appears on both of the CDs; one version more upbeat, featuring complex overlapping rhythmic patterns on Billy Higgins' drums, and the other more thoughtful and restrained.
Although it marks Charlie Haden's 70th year, The Private Collection is not a career retrospective. It's more a snapshot from the family album. There's the musical equivalent of a regrettable hairstyle here and there, but it doesn't detract from the enjoyment of a formative moment in time.