Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden – Last Dance – ECM 2399 B0020803-02, 76:05 ****½:
(Keith Jarrett – piano; Charlie Haden – bass)
Recorded in March 2007 at Keith Jarrett’s home studio, and just released this summer, a month before the passing of Charlie Haden, the issuance of Last Dance is a bittersweet occasion. Charlie Haden was with Keith (and Paul Motian) in Jarrett’s first great trio going back to the mid ‘60s. Dewey Redman was later added, making a quartet that explored a wide swath of territory.
On this CD, however, it was back to the Great American Songbook as well as classic compositions from Bud Powell and Monk. What is immediately evident is the bond between these two men, long-time friends and partners. Much has been said about the skill of Charlie Haden of “listening,” truly immersing himself in music whether it be the lyrical noir of Quartet West, or the wild ride of playing with Ornette Coleman. Haden can go either way, as he had “good ears” and his full bodied, muscular bass playing was valued by the complete gamut of jazz players, no matter what genre they covered.
From the opener, “My Old Flame,” to the appropriate closer, “Goodbye,” hearing these two masters communicate with each other is like seeing an old friend after many years, and immediately feeling at home like it was just yesterday that we shared our special bond, and not that it had really been years since our paths had crossed.
Both Haden and Jarrett know how to use space in their playing, letting a note or phrase linger before moving forward. Haden’s tone and timbre are easily recognizable as it seems he puts his whole body and strong fingers into the bass strings, the sound rich and resonant.
His solos on this CD are as eagerly awaited as those of Jarrett, which is a major compliment when you are talking about hearing Keith alone at the keyboard. (When listening to Ron Carter at the Detroit Jazz Festival doing a Billboard Blindfold Test of bass solos, it was Charlie Haden that was most recognizable to my ears..)
Every track on Last Dance is flawless, but a few stand out. “It Might as Well Be Spring” is one. It is such a tender reading that a feeling of being “blissed out” is felt. The melody is well known but the presentation is heart warming. No other instruments are needed, just Keith and Charlie almost holding hands like the closest of lifelong friends.
The two closing tracks, “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “Goodbye” can bring tears to the eyes both for their titles, and their placement in song order on the CD. Charlie Haden had been in declining health with post-polio syndrome for some time, and Jarrett had to have known when this CD was released on June 17th that Haden’s passing was imminent. It is more likely, though, that this project had been completed for some time and perhaps the song order was coincidental. We’ll probably not know unless Jarrett is asked and chooses to answer. I’ll just believe that from the CD title that this disc was issued as a memorial and an expression of love for Charlie….
TrackList: My Old Flame, My Ship, Round Midnight, Dance of the Infidels, It Might as Well Be Spring, Everything Happens to Me, Where Can I Go Without You, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Goodbye