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Jazz Review

Charlie Haden's 'Art of the Song' Breaks From Album Format

May 08, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Charlie Haden's album "The Art of the Song," released last year, is a lushly orchestrated (by Alan Broadbent) series of settings, most of which showcase the singing of Shirley Horn and Bill Henderson.

In performance Saturday night at the Getty's Harold M. Williams Auditorium, however, an identically titled performance, "The Art of the Song," had a considerably different slant. The primary divergence was the absence of Horn, whose four ballads were among the album's major highlights. The second was the dominance of Haden originals--five selections among the program of 11 pieces. And the third difference was the greater emphasis upon instrumental music, with Haden's Quartet West and a 24-piece string ensemble performing the first six numbers before Henderson arrived to sing "Why Did I Choose You?"

The first four selections--all from Haden's "Now Is the Hour" album--were dominated by the film scoring (Victor Young's "The Left Hand of God" theme), sentimental tunes (the originals "Here's Looking at You" and "There in a Dream") that are among Haden's musical preferences. The single exception was Broadbent's combined arrangement of Lennie Tristano's "Requiem" (written in memory of Charlie Parker) and Parker's "Back Home Blues." The string setting of the plangent harmonies of "Requiem" was stunning, but it's hard to understand why Broadbent elected to supplement it with the fairly prosaic Parker blues line rather than Tristano's own, far more intense blues passages.

Henderson's vocals, which also included the Van Heusen/Gordon standard "You My Love" and Haden's "Ruth's Waltz" and "Easy on the Heart," were delivered in his typically jaunty style, breaking up the lines into an almost conversational, always amiable delivery. As an added fillip, Haden offered his own sweet-toned vocal on "Wayfaring Stranger" (from the "Art of the Song" CD). It was an appropriate coda to a performance that would have benefited from a greater vocal presence to counter the bland moodiness of many of the instrumental works.

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