The New Digits

If you do not see the number eight, you are in dire need of immense quantities of free jazz. Take four times a day -- no generics!

Charlie Haden
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 the digit most commonly used in mystical formulations to achelmize ordinary materials into precious metal. Sounds auspicious to us. So what better way to kick off 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 a duet with Don Cherry, duo partner extraordinaire. A 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 kites notes above 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 Music (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 recording 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.

Category Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Hampton Hawes

10 Responses to The New Digits

  1. I bought ” As long as.. ” a few weeks after its release.

    I’m still listening to it every monyh. It’s great.

  2. thanks for these. the more i listen to charlie, the more i realise what a beautiful player he is.

  3. This is beautiful stuff. Few bassists were as tastefully lyrical as Haden.

  4. I have yet to hear a performance by Charlie Haden that is less than excellent. He has technique, taste, a gorgeous sound and a bottomless pit of ideas. Long may he reign.

  5. Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Glad you are digging on Haden. It’s seemed to me elsewhere that he can be a polarizing figure, but refreshing here to see the positive vibes.

    Also, floodwatch, you’ve been on a tear of late. Nice work, especially the “what you actually listened to” post.

  6. Hey- I go off the grid for a little more than 2 weeks and there’s a veritable flood of sonic gold here, of course. Looking forward to hearing all of it, from Casper Brotzmann to some of the “most downloaded” that I missed.

    I’m surprised Haden can be polarizing. anybody out there recapitulate the arguments?

    here’s to another great year, thanks

    peter breslin

  7. That logo reminds me of one of those ouchy jagged rock things that Chinese people like to walk barefoot one, whereast the one on the previous post is obviously Mr. Potato head wearing a propeller yamulke.

  8. OK, found an especially nice (if not especially color-blindness-test-like) picture here.

  9. What gems! I’m loving the Charlie Haden picks. Thank you.

  10. l have loved haden for many years…and cherry too/ the composition called out of focus is based on the ornette coleman piece focus on sanity/ l heard it one day a while back, if you check out haden’s bass solo on the ornette tune,then listen to the duet with cherry – you will hear it! then check the title! out of focus-on sanity ….you dig?