Talk about the ticket to have, Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman on a double bill! Normally, when I go to any jazz event, I always take a look around to see if there are any familiar jazz faces in the house. This time everyone I knew was outside standing in line trying to get a ticket. Luckily, they all did. The house was packed for a sold out performance. Before each performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, there is the familiar sound of cell phones ringing super loud. This the Disney’s way to tell everyone to make sure to turn off all of their electronic devices and as usual it gets a little chuckle. But, tonight the music is no laughing matter. These are some serious jazz fans mixed amongst the subscribers and we are ready for jazz to be heard!
The stage is lit in a calming lavender and we the audience came to hear some of the legends of our music perform. I am on the side facing the door on stage where the musicians are and as it opens, out walks Charlie and his band. I wasn’t sure if Ornette and Charlie were going to be playing together but, it turned out that they each had their own players for the evening. Each musician goes to their prospective instrument that is awaiting them on the stage. The audience applause is thunderous and Charlie edges them to continue and they do. Charlie has a new disc out called “Land of the Sun” which was arranged by his wonderfully talented pianist, Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Ernie Watts is ready to play as well as Ignacio Berroa on drums, Miguel Zenon on Alto, Michael Rodriguez on Trumpet, Oriente Lopez on flute and one of are very own guitarist, Mr. Larry Koonse.
The last time I saw Charlie, his arm was in a sling. I believe it was a case of carpel tunnel. However the only thing slinging tonight is pure, rich magic!
Miguel Zenon was blowin’ the Disney just as he did a while back when he played at Royce Hall with the SF Collective only this time in a much calmer manor. The music from Charlie Haden and his band was not on the wild side at all. Many of us expected the fire, agility and freedom that is usually synonymous with the name Ornette Coleman but, this is Charlie’s set, and the music is calm, controlled, even toned and beautiful. If you turned the jazz dial in your ears down from avant to fire to calm, beautiful and peaceful, then this is a set you thoroughly enjoyed.
One thing I love about a jazz audience is that we participate and are always a part of the performance. We don’t have t wait to share our appreciation, it is immediate. Ernie, the statesman and constant gentleman of gentle tones and fluid sound, is such a given in this equation. Gonzalo arranged these pieces with such heart. Such warm love blankets the walls of the Disney and the sound is pristine. Charlie’s solos can make any venue seem intimate and Ignacio brushes a light coat that marches and provides the time and the forward movement.
Charlie Haden is positioned on a platform with just him, his bass and a monitor all to his self. This must enhance the resonance of the sound of his instrument. You could certainly feel it clearly as it penetrated your body. The temperature seems pretty warm but, I saw many of the musicians on stage were warming their hands. Their temperature has to be just right to keep the music flowing that way. The sound in this hall is so spectacular and I am so happy that jazz is on the calendar. The band is always morphing, adding and subtracting players as each tune sees fit. When you listen, you hear every player’s contribution clearly, even as the instruments are interwoven in the fabric of each piece. No one has to shout or scream to be heard. I don’t know Gonzalo personally but, I can tell you that he must be the biggest romantic. Larry Koonse joins the band on stage and the front line gets to chill because he has got this tune covered. He and Gonzalo exchange such beautiful melodies on “Nostalgia” with Ignacio providing the rhythm with the fire turned on medium heat.
Yes a beautiful set of mellow music, quite the contrast of what was to come….