Showing the love for Haden and Motian…

Steve Cardenas – Charlie and Paul – Newvelle Records NV013LP – audiophile LP  ****1/2:

(Steve Cardenas – guitars; Loren Stillman – saxophones; Thomas Morgan – bass; Matt Wilson – drums)

After appearing as a sideman on previous Newvelle Records releases, Steve Cardenas now steps into the role as leader on the initial LP of the third season of Newvelle’s well received subscription series. On Charlie and Paul, he honors two iconic jazz masters with whom he was honored to contribute to their legacy, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer, Paul Motian. Both Haden and Motian cherished melody and yet could (and did!) enter more adventurous avenues of expression.

Cardenas chose as band mates, musicians who also played with Charlie and Paul. Saxist, Loren Stillman appeared on Carla Bley and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra’s final release, and recorded with Motian in 2009. Bassist,Thomas Morgan, was with Motian on the Windmills of Your Mind issue. Drummer, Matt Wilson, goes back to 2005 with Cardenas on the Liberation Orchestra’s Not in Our Name (which would be apropos to the present political environment). Steve, himself, was an integral part of both the Orchestra as well as Motian’s Electric Bebop Band.

Cardenas decided with few exceptions to feature some of the lesser known Haden and Motian compositions. There are three previously unreleased Motian tunes ranging from free jazz (“Riff Raff”) to a ballad (“Prairie Avenue Cowboy”).

“Kalypso” features Matt Wilson. What is immediately apparent is Wilson’s rhythmic talents, and Newvelle’s ability to fully capture the warmth of all four musicians through the skills of Marc Urselli, who recorded and mixed all tracks in July, 2017, at East Side Sound in New York City. “Tangram” lets Stillman go off into a bop vein backed by Steve’s accents, and Morgan’s steady pulse. Cardenas’ electric guitar solo is next before Morgan’s vibrant woody bass (so well recorded!) lowers the temperature, and the quartet takes it out.

“Asia” from Motian’s 1977 release, Dance, has Stillman and Cardenas in an intertwining “conversation” while Wilson stirs the pot. “La Pasionaria” from Haden is sublime. Morgan on bass anchors the Latinesque mood, while the others dart in and out. Stillman takes lead mid-tune. I heard a strong influence from the Liberation Orchestra during the closing melody. “In the Moment” from Haden’s Quartet West, has a more “open” presentation. I just wish it was a bit longer to fully appreciate its vision.

“Prairie Avenue Cowboy” is a lovely country ballad, and Cardenas’ acoustic guitar is recorded in crystalline clear splendor. Loren’s sax solo and Morgan’s classy bass add to the lilting effect of this previously unreleased gem, showing the gentle side of Motian.

“Riff Raff,” also unreleased by Motian, finds Stillman free blowing. “Pocket Full of Cherry” from Haden’s period with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry lets Steve explore the upper guitar register before Stillman channels Ornette, yet keeping the blues in mind.

“For Turiya” is the most recognizable track on the LP. It brings back melody as the strong focus for this album. Morgan’s solo would make Charlie Haden proud.

Steve started out with a big book of 50 tunes from the two composers before thinning it down to first 20, then 15. Eleven tracks were recorded and nine were issued on vinyl.

This is an auspicious start to Season Three of Newvelle’s highly collectible audiophile LP series, featuring impeccable acoustics and coffee table art cover LP presentation. There will be six albums again this year, issued bi-monthly, and only available through the label.

Tracklist:
Side A: Kalypso, Tangram, Asia, La Pasionaria, In the Moment
Side B: Prairie Avenue Cowboy, Riff Raff, Pocket Full of Cherry, For Turiya

—Jeff Krow

Steve Cardenas Web Site