August 2006

Charlie Haden Quartet West
August 31, 2006The River Run CentreGuelph
Cosmic Elegance
by Paul J. Youngman
Defying time or labels, with a compassionate and sensitive ear on this world while visiting a world that should be, Haden and friends guided the audience at the River Run Centre on a cosmic journey of peace and harmony.

The current Quartet West is comprised of Allan Broadbent (piano), Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone), Rodney Green (drums) and of course Charlie Haden on acoustic bass. Haden, Watts and Broadbent are original members of Quartet West along with Larance Marable. Other legendary drummers over the history of the band have included, Billy Higgins, Paul Motian and Billy Hart. Rodney Green is certainly in the company of great drummers; he manages to come up to the bar and soars over it with the skill of a master.

Opening the show with the classic Charlie Parker song “Passport”, the band caught the groove and stayed on track throughout. Green would solo to an introduction of Haden and provide accompaniment while Haden performed, telling a wonderful story with clean, fluid and dynamic bass lines. The old nostalgic song was approached with original, innovative and fresh ideas. Haden sustains his notes and plays bass in a very lyrical style. During the songs he is the heartbeat, driving the band forward with an incredible energy and spirit.

On fire at this night’s performance, Ernie Watts played some of the most lyrical lines I’ve ever heard. In a blend of cool jazz and rip-roaring hard bop, with a spattering of avant-garde atonal runs thrown in, he delighted the audience on each appearance at centre stage. One moment, he would be playing along smoothly and melodically; a moment after, he was firing off runs at superhuman speed. When playing in the middle register his tone is glorious, upon reaching the high end he would nail high notes and hold them for what seemed would be eternity.

The band performed five songs and an encore number, performing close to two hours that was to go by in a flash of brilliance. Other songs performed included, “Hello My Lovely,” “Child Play,” “First Song (For Ruth)” and “Lonely Women”, the Ornette Coleman song. Haden mentioned a recent gig in New York at the Blue Note, a visit with Mr. Coleman while in town, and a glorious two days of playing in his loft. Here is for hoping that a new recording of that meeting is in the works.

The song “Lonely Women” had pianist Broadbent performing an awesome solo. He leaned over the piano at about a forty-five degree angle and proceeded to tear the keys off the board. Hammering out full-sounding chords and lighting-fast runs, I thought we were in the presence of a Classical pianist performing a solo concerto. The audience erupted into applause that would not subside until Broadbent stood and bowed; at the same time he jokingly placed his hands in a classic arthritic pose, provoking a chuckle from the audience.

This is one of the longest-running quartets in history, having started out in 1986. Haden made mention of their twenty-year anniversary, as he explained his near introduction of Rodney Green as Larance Marable. It was an emotional moment with Haden wrapping his arm around Green’s shoulder and leaving to thunderous applause. The band returned and performed one more number, with all members playing some amazing solos. Another long, standing ovation encouraged the Quartet West to return to the stage a second time, they would not play, they had said all that needed to be said, they took an arm-in-arm bow and bid us farewell. A classic concert, thank you Charlie Haden & Quartet West.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
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