Strength of Strings

Charlie Haden and Quartet West. At the Lobero Theatre,
Wednesday, November 29.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Charlie-Haden-Web.jpgCharlie Haden radiates a rare kind of
strength, and from the warm reception he and his Quartet West
received at the Lobero last Wednesday, Santa Barbara knows it.
Whatever the connections that make Haden such a favorite in our
town, this special affection was in ample evidence from the opening
notes of his packed show.

Few players of any instrument can boast of an emotional
expressiveness as profound as Charlie Haden’s. He shone on every
number, managing to uncover something new in each of his gorgeous
solos. Standing on a riser and bathed in a soft spotlight, Haden
returned again and again to the middle register of his bass for an
astonishing range of melodic runs and arpeggios. It’s not just the
tone with Haden; it’s the sense of spirituality — the offering in
the moment — that animates his every note and separates him from
even the best of his peers.

And what peers he has assembled for Quartet West! Ernie Watts
was fantastic on tenor sax, seemingly telepathic in his rapport
with the rhythm section, and possessing a clarity of tone that cut
through every time he stepped to the microphone. Rodney Green is
the most gifted young drummer to grace a Santa Barbara stage this
year. His brushwork was especially sensitive in the whisper-quiet
sections he shared with Haden. And pianist Alan Broadbent very
nearly stole the show. Taking the Lobero’s brand-new concert grand
piano for its maiden voyage, Broadbent was like an epic explorer of
new musical worlds.

Ornette Coleman’s classic 1957 composition “Lonely Woman,” which
is perhaps the finest, most elemental, and explicitly moving
modernist ballad in the entire jazz songbook, has been reworked to
feature Broadbent, and the result is quite amazing. The irony
here — that Coleman’s original had no piano — can hardly be lost on
any jazz fan, but the result is a lot more than ironic. Broadbent’s
solo took us cascading over a waterfall of music that called to
mind Rachmaninoff as much as Ellington, and was one of the many
highlights of this, one of the very best concerts of 2006.


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