Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau, Long Ago and Far Away (Impulse!)
Charlie Haden (1937-2014) combined the solid tonal qualities of his bass playing with an audacious sense of harmonic adventure. Those qualities were ideal for the departures of Ornette Coleman’s quintet in the late 1950s. After his time with Coleman, Haden continued to employ the contrasting aspects of his musicianship throughout his life up to, including and beyond his remarkable Quartet West recordings. After hearing, by chance, the 23-year-old pianist Brad Mehldau in 1993, Haden arranged for a 1996 engagement at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles with Mehldau and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. The next year, the three recorded together for the Blue Note label. Finally, in 2007 at the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim, Germany, Haden and Mehldau played for the first time as a duo. After years of delays, Long Ago And Far Away comes from the recording of that concert and finds the two beautifully interacting and supporting one another.
Mehldau scuffles a bit introducing the melody of the opening Charlie Parker blues “Au Privave,” but after that the two settle into tight interaction and mutual support in five beloved standards from the great American songbook, plus a beguiling version of David Raksin’s rarely performed “My Love And I.”
To these ears, that is the most effective performance of the Mannheim concert, but Haden and Mehldau are satisfying at nearly the same levels of emotion and collaboration in the Jerome Kern title tune, Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do,” Matt Dennis’s “Everything Happens To Me” and Sam Coslow’s “My Old Flame,” written in 1934 and still a goldmine of harmonic clues that Haden and Mehldau follow to new riches. It is gratifying to have this commemoration of their empathy.
The album booklet includes enlightening essays by Mehldau and Haden’s wife, Ruth.