Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Charlie Haden Quartet West

Melbourne Recital Centre. Noice. Though I have wondered when attending previous concerts, what will happen if and when the people in charge get tired of the swirly patterns in the wooden walls. Do they get a chisel out and make different swirly patterns? Do they flatten them out and wallpaper over them?

With Charlie Haden as the artist in residence for this festival, we get to hear him in so many ways. This was going to be another one... different to the Liberation Orchestra Context...

A funny thing happened to me at last night's gig. Yes, it's taken me a day to blog it, which is naughty, but crappy admin work, tiredness and a day job got in the way. And that other thing that kicks in sometimes where you just enjoy the music and then you don't want to write about it because bringing it into words does something to it that lessens it somehow. Definitely true of last night. And sitting here at home doing necessary stuff (I want to be out and LISTENING but can't get there tonight) I find myself almost almost deciding not to blog what I hear any more. I just want to listen.

But I'll hang in there for a bit.

Now where was I...

Magnusson, Ball and Talia opened the evening for us. That's Stephen, Eugene and Joe. Two lovely bits of improvisation to begin with. An ambient tune; transporting... and then something with some more conversation, some stuff going on. Then a beautiful gorgeous surprise, with Lush Life (was that what it was? I am hopeless with song titles). I'm not sure I've heard Eugene Ball play like that before. If my yoga teacher had been there beside me he would have been cross. My yoga teacher keeps telling me about the importance of breath, and for quite a few of Eugene's bars, I held mine, spellbound. I loved those notes Euge. Love love loved 'em.

A little break then, and some free wine... (I paid for water)

Then Charlie Haden's Quartet West. Knowing what the sound can be like here at the Melbourne Recital Centre, imagine my surprise (shared by others in the audience, I soon found out) to hear that the bass was missing. Charlie Haden playing on stage in front of us and we can't hear him!

My notes say 'Is it just me? Is the bass missing?' About four songs in, Mr Haden did a bit of back-announcing and asked us what we thought. "Turn up the bass!" was the answer he got.

The bass was turned up. Result: a recital centre full of much happier punters!

I am told by someone who was at the sound check that the bass was down so quiet because that's the way Charlie Haden wanted it. But I'm glad we got it turned up because it made a difference.

An interesting observation by another punter who joined me for a few songs (S) that someone who's been around for as long as Charlie Haden, playing through styles, evolving as a musician with the music, then they have an ability to move between styles - free to bop and back and beyond - in ways that probably don't seem strange if you've lived and played all those styles as they were happening; if you've been part of their development...

There were many highlights in this concert. Piano player Larry Goldings, tenor saxophone player Ernie Watts (wow!) and drummer Rodney Green make up the other three parts of this quartet.

I spent the first half of the concert worrying about the bass and the second half with my eyes closed enjoying the sounds immensely. The last tune the quartet played (except for the encore) was Ornette Coleman's 'Lonely Woman'. It was immense. Larry Goldings' solo was incredible; creating a space out of sound that enthralled the audience. They were all great. More than one happy punter outside after the concert commented on Ernie Watts' sound. Actually one punter was a bit miffed when he (at first) didn't come out for the encore. She raised her voice and demanded the 'sexy saxophone player'. Was Charlie Haden pouting? What about the sexy bass player?

Charlie Haden has a chorus he's been singing this whole visit about how it's job of musicians to create beauty, and I can hear that. I can hear that's what they're doing.

No comments: