OUT OF FOCUS
The Golden Number
A&M : 1977
CH, bass; Don Cherry, trumpet, percussion (on “Out of Focus”); Hampton Hawes, piano (on “Turnaround”).
New Year’s numerology: While De La Soul reminds us that three is the magic number, Tibetan mythology informs us that seven is the golden number. Seven is theÂ digit most commonly used in mystical formulations to achelmize ordinary materials intoÂ precious metal. Sounds auspicious to us. So what better way to kick offÂ 2007 than with two tracks from The Golden Number itself.
Recorded in 1976, this album was Haden’s second installment of duets with celebrated musicians. Although it’s his show, on first listen Haden tends to get upstaged by his partners. So let’s take a second to point out the obvious: Haden’s immaculately tasteful, tuneful, and consistently surprising accompaniment throughout. He never relies on mere technique and sculpts alternately primal and complex runs in the service of the tunes. No matter how unusual, his choices always fit perfectly – as if they couldn’t have happened any other way.
“Out of Focus” is aÂ duet with Don Cherry, duo partner extraordinaire. AÂ terrific, percussive start builds up to a heady space-rock vibe before Cherry switches to trumpet. His bright smears of brass take the song higher, as he kitesÂ notes aboveÂ Haden’s bass, which plays tether, keeping the whole enterprise grounded.
“Turnaround” offers something deeply perverse: an Ornette Colmean cover with piano and no horns. But Hawes swings the tune. Pretty, bluesy, gently rollicking. An alternate take of this tune appears on the Hawes/Haden collaboration As Long As There’s MusicÂ (as does the version above). On the alternate, Hawes takes more chances, offers more embellishment. This version is elegantly laconic. And a fitting final statement: Hawes died of a stroke, at 48, less than a year after this recordingÂ was made.
If it doesn’t sound particularly out that’s because it’s not. After all these years our ears have caught up to Ornette’s harmolodic inventions and they sound like what they always were – classic jazz, y’all.