Charlie Haden "American Dreams" - JVC Jazz Festival 2003

Charlie Haden


Carnegie Hall, June 25, 2003:


       Kathy and I arrive at Carnegie Hall just in time for the 8:00 P.M. show time. The opening performers tonight are Charlie Haden’s “American Dreams,” featuring Michael Brecker, with Kenny Barron, Piano and Rodney Green, Drums. The Berklee String Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Matt Glaser, will accompany them. We happily meet Karen again, who is with her brother Mark. We also meet Jeff, who is here on vacation from Tulsa, Oklahoma and is very excited to see Ornette Coleman at Carnegie Hall.

       “American Dreams” starts promptly at 8:05 P.M. The opening composition, from Pat Methaney, is “Travels.” There is a very soothing string orchestral introduction. The standup bass is distinctive and very apropos from Charlie Haden. Matt Glaser conducts the orchestra as the musical theme is developed. The musical dynamic is hushed as the string chamber orchestra is featured. The next arrangement, “Prism,” a Keith Jarrett composition, features Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone. Michael initiates the main theme in a silky smooth serenade. The melody is pleasing and serene. Rodney Green demonstrates excellent brush technique on his drums. Michael develops the melody along an upbeat 4/4 tempo and he solos with long melodic runs complemented by cleverly phrased arpeggios. Kenny’s piano is bright and airy and conveys grace and elegance. Michael restates the comforting melody to the end.

       The third musical entry is another Keith Jarrett composition, “No More Lonely Nights.” The quartet and string ensemble strike a nice balance. The strings are soothing and sustained during a nice slow swing tempo as Michael Brecker solos extensively. The piano is featured executing beautiful melodic scales with the strings filling in colorful and sustained backup. The next composition is a waltz from Brad Waldo called, “Ron’s Café.” Rodney Green demonstrates excellent brushwork developing the ¾ time signature. The tenor embellishes the melody confidently. The piano solo is a gradual melodic development to a challenging musical expression. This tune features just the quartet. Charlie’s walking bass is profound and solid as he leads the group through creative melodic changes. Michael Brecker’s solo demonstrates his virtuoso control of his instrument. His melodic scale runs lead up to well-conceived crescendos of high shrieking notes for emotional pull.

       The fifth song is a romantic ballad with a gorgeous introduction from the string section. Michael Brecker takes the lead with sensual and delicate treatment of the melody. The bass is featured in a musical contrast to the strings. The piano solos over the nice brushwork of the drummer. The piano solo is melodic and delicate as the strings add color and body. The tenor restates the lead after the creative musical imagination of the soloists is completed. The next composition, from Charlie Haden, is called, “Birdfoot,” and was penned in 1958. This is an upbeat swing tempo with the bass featured along with the drums. The musicians execute excellent conceptual playing that is dynamically selective. There is a very nice touch from Rodney Green and showcases the exquisite bass technique of Charlie Haden. The piano solo starts slow and elegant and dynamically increases to majestic and calamitous crescendos. Michael takes an excellent tenor solo with crescendos culminating in high shrieking sustained notes, excellent! The next song features a soothing string introduction with Michael taking the lead melody on his tenor. The song strikes a familiar theme and Kenny Barron’s piano solo is excellent. This arrangement demonstrates excellent ensemble playing as the strings provide body and depth, the piano comps creative chord melodies and the tenor treats the melody so silky smooth and sweet.

       The last composition is, “America The Beautiful.” Charlie Haden’s bass leads the melody with the string ensemble in full complement. The piano assumes the lead accompanied with fine brushwork by the drummer that is slick and confident. This bass feature showcases the strings, with a harp, to round out a superior musical performance.

       “American Dreams” and the Berklee String Chamber Orchestra make absolutely beautiful music together. The Berklee College of Music is a world famous institution and the students proudly display the excellent musical proficiency of their studies there. The quartet is excellent and all the musicians play intuitively together and solo exquisitely as individuals.

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A.J. Alfaro