Charlie has passed. Here’s a review of his final duet with with Keith Jarrett, the terrifically lyrical Last Dance (ECM). It’s the brother album of Jasmine, and though it’s a 50/50 project, I put Charlie in the lede. His sound was speaking to me when I wrote this a month or so ago. Courtesy of Tone Audio.
Charlie Haden has recorded duets with a handful of pianists. Among others, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, John Taylor, Hampton Hawes, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba have had the chance to contour their lines around the bassist’s plush notes. Though each of them boasts a distinctive approach, a through-line marks these sessions: an unmistakable sense of grace, as well as the serenity it seems to seek, often sits proudly in the foreground, and it comes from Haden’s deeply pliant touch. That artistic signature glows with emotional power as a matter of course, but it reaches an unusual depth when he’s connecting with his longtime friend Keith Jarrett. Last Dance, the duo’s second disc, is teeming with heart. Whether examining a Broadway ballad or pulsing through a bop nugget, these aging partners turn their focus to the task of rendering lyricism in the name of camaraderie.
Things move slowly on this one. Both Jarrett and Haden are quite comfortable with sullen tempos (head back to their sublime “Ellen David” from the bassist’s 1976 Closeness to hear the roots of their duo rapport), and as they wind their way around the melodies of “My Ship” and “Everything Happens To Me,” their appreciation of nuance is in the foreground. There are no rapturous runs for the pianist, and the bassist pares down his already minimal approach. Last Dance isn’t a place to turn for effusive improv (which isn’t to say that Jarrett’s right hand doesn’t knock off a pithy string of trills every now and then); it’s a spot that seduces with the deep grace of unity.
Regardless of how they saunter through these reflections, there’s a deliberate nature in play. At certain moments it seems as if “Every Time We Say Goodbye” is taking a breather – that’s just the pair’s way of giving silence its due. “My Old Flame” may introduce the album’s dreamy program at a creep, but there’s a glide inherent in the duo’s moves, and the tactile way they align themselves sustains the action. The sole up-tempo track, Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels” is strategically placed, and infuses the program with the ardor of bop.
Recorded during a 2007 meeting at Jarrett’s home studio in the Jersey countryside, this pairing has already given us 2009’s Jasmine, an album with a similar personality. Though this is formally part two of the work done back then, it’s more fetching than its predecessor, whose candlelit character occasionally brokered a snoozy vibe. Though it may inch along in some spots, Last Dance is a rumination on romance that simply chooses to make every note count. Its sentiment is fetching.