Charlie Haden and Hank Jones – Come Sunday – Decca/ Emarcy B0016390-02, 42:21 [1/10/12] ****½:
(Hank Jones, piano; Charlie Haden, acoustic bass)
Reviewing the long awaited final duo recording of Hank Jones and Charlie Haden, was an especially bittersweet experience. Seventeen years ago they recorded Steal Away, an album of hymns and folk music that is a masterpiece. It was an issue that I have bought as a gift for friends to introduce them to the genius of the art of collaboration between my favorite jazz pianist and the elite bassist who was raised by a musical family steeped in the tradition of folk music and spirituals. Steal Away provided the opportunity for a transcendental late night listening experience with the lights off, with the ability to set the worries of the day aside to soak up the beauty and spiritual peace provided by two jazz masters going back to their youth.
Hank Jones passed away in 2010, shortly after recording Come Sunday. His obituary is mentioned this recording, and it began an agonizing wait for the issuance of this CD. The jazz community knew of its existence and anxiously awaited the day when it would be released. Listening to Come Sunday proves the axiom that you can not improve on perfection. Whereas, Steal Away mixed spirituals, hymns, and well-loved folk songs, Come Sunday concentrates on sacred music. Steal Away swung in a gentle manner that was addicting, as with the gentle hymnal quality came the Hank Jones magical swing caress.
Come Sunday is more reverential. The sound quality is a real step up as sound technology has improved over the last seventeen years. You feel the fingering on the fret board by Haden, as well as Hank’s touch and release of the piano keys. If I have one gripe about Come Sunday, it is in the song selection. The sacred music is more restrained, and although gorgeous and moving, I miss the sprightliness of the presentation on Steal Away.
Do not get me wrong, there are also magical moments on Come Sunday, that make this a must purchase for fans of Haden and Jones as well as sacred music lovers. There is just less gospel church influence than I would have preferred. Special moments abound, though, as outlined below:
“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” brings us back seventeen years. Haden is in full synch with Hank as Jones mixes gospel with a subdued reverence. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” stays strictly in the holiday seasonal mood. “Down By the Riverside” is made special by Haden’s assertive solo, and then Jones’ swing choruses. A welcome addition.
“Going Home” brings a peaceful acceptance that would be appropriate at a loved one’s funeral. It would have been fitting to have been performed at Hank’s memorial service. The same could be said for “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
“Deep River” and “Give Me That Old Time Religion” take us back to the strengths of Steal Away, the influence of the gospel church, where religion and earthy swing meet in joyousness. “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is restrained and given a treatment that could be found in most any denominational setting, as does “The Old Rugged Cross”. I found myself missing the folk songs like “We Shall Overcome”, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”, and even “Danny Boy” from Steal Away, where nostalgia met the swing that Charlie and Hank can bring to these beloved and inspiring standards.
“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” provides Haden with a moving solo, and Hank adds several choruses where he lets jazz seep in.
Come Sunday ends on an especially high note with the inclusion of Duke Ellington’s title track. It’s done as a call-and-response with orchestral overtones from Hank.
The street release date for this issue is January 10, 2012, the same day that Charlie Haden receives the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the highest dignitary honor that can be awarded to jazz musicians. (Hank received his NEA award back in 1989). The honor is well deserved and long overdue for Charlie Haden’s body of work that ranges in styles from his time with Quartet West to his period with Ornette Coleman.
Hank Jones’ career spanned seven decades. He is irreplaceable. Having one more visit with Jones on Come Sunday is an experience that one should not pass up. With my minor quibbles aside, it was more than worth the wait.
Man, I miss Hank Jones. Thank goodness we have his extensive recording history to ease the pain of his passing.
Tracklist: Take My Hand Precious Lord, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Down By the Riverside, Going Home, Blessed Assurance, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Bringing in the Sheaves, Deep River, Give Me That Old Time Religion, Sweet Hour of Prayer, The Old Rugged Cross, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, Nearer My God to Thee, Come Sunday
This is an accessible album from a virtuoso harmonica player.