CHARLIE HADEN & BRAD MEHLDAU, Long Ago and Far Away (Impulse, 2018)
PERSONNEL: Charlie Haden (bass); Brad Mehldau (piano)
- Au Privave
- My Old Flame
- What’ll I Do
- Long Ago and Far Away
- My Love and I
- Everything Happens to Me
On November 5, 2007, a jazz legend and a jazz legend on the rise played a duet concert at the Christuskirche, a church in Mannheim, Germany. The legend (bassist Charlie Haden) and the legend on the rise (pianist Brad Mehldau) were mutual admirers of one another, and had played together off and on since 1996. But this was their first appearance as a duo. And like the room they played, the show was something truly special.
Their performance is a testament to pacing, listening, touch, and good taste. Playing a set of standards (all ballads), Mehldau and Haden give utmost respect to the songs and each other, expressing themselves completely without overwhelming one another while doing so. Haden’s bass playing is evenly paced and never frantic, leaving more than enough room for Mehldau’s gentle chords and authoritative (but not overly aggressive) lead lines. When the roles are reversed, Mehldau plays just enough to give Haden a springboard from which to work, which the bassist uses to his full advantage.
The duo shines brightest on romantic numbers like “My Old Flame” and “My Love and I.” They seem to stretch out the most on the album’s finale, “Everything Happens to Me.” Listeners used to larger jazz ensembles will not need long to focus on what is present in terms of instrumentation, rather than worry about what isn’t there. The two musicians on stage are all this particular performance needs.
Because of contract issues, this album could not be released until last year. Unfortunately, Haden passed away in 2014 after half a century on the jazz scene. Fortunately, he was able to hear this performance during his lifetime, and held it in high regard.
As well he should have.
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