Friday, September 26, 2008

Jazz Tracks #8: Charlie Haden Goes Americana

Charlie Haden's new CD, Rambling Boy, has the legendary jazz bassist turning his attention to the music of his youth - country, bluegrass and traditional tunes.

His sound - solid, woody, deliberate, resonant, defined by creative playing that "tells a story" yet always supports the music - not surprisingly makes a natural fit in a setting quite foreign to Haden's usual musical milieu.

He's joined by a cavalcade of simpatico guests, including his wife, Ruth Cameron, son Josh, triplet daughters Rachel, Petra and Tanya, and such luminaries as Pat Metheny, Elvis Costello, Roseanne Cash, Vince Gill, Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs and Jack Black (yes, that one, Haden's son-in-law).

I reviewed the CD for Las Vegas City Life. Click here to read the review, or just scroll down.

Richard Johnston, in a story published in the November issue of Bass Player magazine, asked Haden about the "family affair" aspects of the new CD.

Said Haden: "It reminded me of working with my family when I was a kid. My mom and dad were really talented and were great people, and they paid a lot of attention to presenting music to an audience. Every morning, they would go through all the music in our files an decide what we were going to do for our shows -- we did two shows every day. So I took that approach ... working with them and deciding what they wanted to sing, and going through the harmonies of the songs. They all have great voices and great intonation and great ears. And Josh has a gift for writing songs and for playing bass while he sings, which I was never able to do."

My review:

Charlie Haden Family and Friends

Rambling Boy (Decca)

In a career as long and individualistic and decidedly forward-looking as that of Charlie Haden, bassist for Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking late-'50s quartet, it is and isn't a surprise he'd return to his musical womb.

But there he goes, traversing all the way back to the beginning, when Missouri native Haden practically walked out of the nursery onto the stage to play country and bluegrass with the Haden Family band, heard here on a scratchy radio recording of two-year-old Yodelin' Cowboy Charles Edwards. Book-ending that track is Haden, today, singing a dirge-speed, surprisingly affecting version of the traditional "Oh Shenandoah," backed by the flickering strings of a group including guitarist Pat Metheny and dobro player Jerry Douglas.

Haden's journey home is consistently rewarding, starting with the two-beat sweetness of "Single Girl, Married Girl," featuring his triplet daughters Petra, Rachel and Tanya. Vince Gill contributes the laidback title track, Elvis Costello slips into the bluesy ramble of "You Win Again," Ricky Skaggs heads down the "Road of Broken Hearts," and Jack Black -- yes, that one -- gets rambunctious on "Old Joe Clark."

Roseanne Cash, Bruce Hornsby and Josh Haden also contribute to this surprisingly organic -- and appealing -- recording, the most intriguing Americana disc of the year (so far).

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