The Montreal Tapes

Joe Henderson & Al Foster (Verve/2005) | iTunes

This is a fine recording that effectively underscores why acoustic jazz is usually more compelling in a live, rather than studio, setting. The playing is warm and spirited throughout. A very worthwhile concert document overall. (

Egberto Gismonti (ECM/2001) | iTunes

Bassist Charlie Haden has done a tremendous amount of playing in duo contexts. This live recording with the remarkable pianist/guitarist Egberto Gismonti is a fine addition to his duo resumé. Recorded at The Montreal Jazz Festival in 1989 and released over a decade later, the album mostly features noted works by Gismonti, although two of Haden’s pieces also appear. Gismonti plays guitar rather than piano on Haden’s “First Song,” making for an interesting comparison with the version that graced Beyond the Missouri Sky, Haden’s 1997 duet record with Pat Metheny. Similarly, Gismonti’s off-kilter piano solo on Haden’s “Silence” contrasts richly with what Keith Jarrett played on the same tune (on 1977’s Bop-Be). Gismonti’s nylon-string stylings do recall Metheny to some degree, as well as ECM labelmate Ralph Towner, although his ten-string instrument sets his playing apart, particularly on the driving “Em Família.” On piano, he’s at his most virtuosic on “Lôro” and “Frevo.” (

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Liberation Music Orchestra (Verve/1999)

Almost three decades separate the release of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra debut and this set from an almost entirely different band. In truth, however, much of the lineup on this recording dates back to the time Haden recorded Dream Keeper. Recorded in 1989 as part of an eight-day tribute to Haden held at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this hour of music centers on two long suites, “We Shall Overcome” from Dream Keeper, and the more cohesive “La Pasionaria” from Ballad of the Fallen. With Joe Lovano and trumpeters Stanton Davis and Tom Harrell taking either leading melodic roles or remarkable solos, the band isn’t wanting for topnotch talent. It’s a party on the stage, to be sure, as you can hear band members reveling in the folksy root melody and the scrappy quote-rich tour of jazz history. It’s still a rare treat to hear this band at work, and Haden’s solos are in their usually imaginative form. (

Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Paul Motion (Verve/1998)

This recording is a breakthough album. Even for all three seasoned players. Motian and Haden have always had a way of working their magic into other peoples playing, instead of leading or falling off into silence like many drummers and bassists do. On this recording they do all the interplay of any remarkable trio, but with virtuosity never before accomplished. Gonzalo is also incredible and adds hauting and gut wrenching beauty and power. This album reaches the high standard only accomplished thus far by a rare set of recordings by the Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett trios. I definitely recommend this album to anyone with a good ear for piano jazz, or anyone looking to get hooked. (

Geri Allen & Paul Motion (Verve/1998)

This collection finds Mr. Haden working in a trio partnered with two excellent musicians. Gerri Allen is pianist known for working on the edge between mainstream and avant garde. Paul Motian has worked with great pianists, including a significant stint with Bill Evans. Mr. Haden’s resume is legendary. Here, these three great talents get together on an eclectic but hardly hodge-podge set. Throughout the trio is tight and tuned into one another providing great interplay without ever seeming like a battle of egoes. In short, it’s what we’ve come to expect from any group Mr. Haden is a part of. Highly recommended. (

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Paul Bley & Paul Motion (Verve/1995)

On this recording, Charlie Haden is joined by impressionistic pianist – and longtime Ornette interpreter – Paul Bley and freeform drummer Paul Motian for a set heavily stocked with Ornette tunes. The first song, a medley of “Turnaround” and “When Will The Blues Leave?” is guided by Bley who sets the tone with the opening notes of “Turnaround”. The set closes with “Turnaround,” this time under the direction of Charlie Haden who leads the trio in a bluesier rendition of the Ornette Coleman classic. In between each member contributes a ballad; they also perform Carla Bley’s “Ida Lupino”, a song recorded by Paul Bley so many times one almost expects to see it on all of his albums. The Paul Bley Quintet that recorded a live set at the Hillcrest Club in 1956 was Bley backed by the classic Ornette Coleman quartet (Ornette, Cherry, Haden, Higgins) breaking ground by performing some (soon-to-be) classic Coleman songs. Forty years later we have a recording of those “standards” being performed in front of a very appreciative (and quite large) audience. Excellent performances, great material. (

Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell (Verve/1994)

When Charlie Haden tells the audience at Montreal’s tenth Festival: “I’m in heaven…every night…,” you can’t help remembering that the trio on that particular day was also a fragment of a dream, actually three-quarters of the Old And New Dreams group of ex-Ornettists (without Dewey Redman’s tenor), or, rather, three-quarters of the alto saxophonist’s original quartet (without Coleman)… In any case, this concert’s repertoire is a clear indication that the three musicians had in essence come together again on common ground, a terrain whose contours seem to have become more defined over the decades: the compositions of their former leader.