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Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Tokyo Adagio – Impulse

Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Tokyo Adagio – Impulse B0023543-02, 51:51 ****1/2:

(Charlie Haden – bass; Gonzalo Rubalcaba – piano)

There are certain jazz artists that are known to be ultimate accompanists. They are often either bassists or pianists. Piano players have to sublimate their egos – and many times their virtuosity – to comp behind vocalists as their role is to provide backing geared to the singer’s strengths. They “fill in the blanks” and provide a setting for the vocals. Some of the best piano accompanists were also major recording artists such as Hank Jones and Bill Evans, while Tommy Flanagan and Ellis Larkins were better known as long term pianists for Ella Fitzgerald.

For mood setting it is hard to top the role of a jazz bassist. They set the pulse for a session and their energy and “ears” make all the difference in inspiring their band mates. Ray Brown, Dave Holland, and Ron Carter all come to mind. Charlie Haden had the distinction, however, of not fitting into any niche. He played with some of the most adventurous musicians (Ornette Coleman, early Keith Jarrett, Don Cherry), while having his roots in country and western. He played some of the most exquisite solos while leading Quartet West and accompanying Hank Jones and Brad Mehldau.

Charlie was also known for championing the cause of younger musicians. He met the young Cuban pianist, Gonzalo Rubalcaba (then 23), in 1986, while attending the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival. He recommended Gonzalo to Blue Note Records who signed him to a recording contract. As guest artist to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Haden recorded a duo CD  in 1989 with Rubalcaba, and they later recorded Nocturne and Land of the Sun. Before passing away in 2014, Charlie pushed for the release of recordings that he and Gonzalo made while playing a four day gig at the Blue Note night club in Tokyo in March 2005.

We are lucky that the resulting issue, Tokyo Adagio, has been released. Its divine beauty is a testament to the admiration that the two artists had for each other. The seven tracks include Latin inspired (“En La Orilla Del Mundo,” “Solamente Una Vez”), a standard,  compositions from each artist, as well as a heartfelt blues from Ornette Coleman.

What is universal to all the tracks is a gentleness, and sense of an intuitive late night conversation between two soul mates who had not seen each other for a long time, yet can regain their connection within minutes of reuniting. Even the up-tempo numbers do not change the mood set by this duo. Thank goodness that the folks at Impulse Records saw fit to honor the wishes of Charlie Haden, to make sure his musical friendship with Gonzalo was shared with the world. For late night contemplation Tokyo Adagio can’t be beat.

TrackList: En La Orilla Del Mundo (The Edge of the World), My Love and I, When Will the Blues Leave, Sandino, Solamente Una Vez (You Belong to My Heart), Transparence

—Jeff Krow

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