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Listening Post: Jazz by Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba and ragas by Ravi and Anoushka Shankar


Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, “Tokyo Adagio.” (Impulse). Sublime – as much, in its way, as Haden’s duets with Keith Jarrett. Once upon a time before Cuba became a destination for any American with a passport who wanted to go there, frequent travel there seemed to be mostly for Canadians and American musicians. It was then in 1986 that Charlie Haden played a Cuban concert on the same day as the band of Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Haden’s story was that he was in his dressing room when Rubalcaba began to play onstage. Haden overheard Rubalcaba solo and said “who is THAT?” Rubalcaba had just come back from playing in the Soviet Union. He didn’t even speak English yet. Through a translator Haden told him “we have to play together.” And they did the next day. When Haden got back to the U.S., according to Rubalcaba’s notes here, he said to Bruce Lundvall, then at Blue Note, “you gotta sign this kid. He lives in Cuba.” And so Lundvall did. This gorgeous ballad recital was recorded live in Tokyo in 2008. Writes Haden’s widow, Ruth Cameron-Haden “Charlie often said to me and others, that he was an ‘adagio’ guy.” Listen to these adagios here – in particular a masterful version of David Raksin’s almost hidden masterwork “My Love and I” – and you know this is a jazz duet for the ages. Before his death was hastened by post-polio syndrome, Haden made it known that he wanted these tapes released. He couldn’t have been more right. They’re marvelous. ◊◊◊◊ (Jeff Simon)

Various Artists, “Waiting for the Angel: Songs With Words By David Hajdu” (Miranda Music). All right, David Hajdu is no Stephen Sondheim. He’s no Bob Dorough or Dave Frishberg or Lorraine Feather among jazz lyricists either. But he’s a terrific jazz critic and author (the definitive biography of Billy Strayhorn, “Positively Fourth Street” about Bob Dylan and Friends, “The Ten-Cent Plague” about comic books) and he’s as clever, witty and literate a lyricist as you are likely to hear these days on this disc where his songs are sung by Jo Lawry, Karen Oberlin and Michael Winther and co-written by the likes of Fred Hersch, Renee Rosnes, Jill Sobule and Mickey Leonard. Whether he’s telling us about “Donna the Astronomer” or Billy Strayhorn advising a whining Duke Ellington to just “suffer”, he’s a lyricist like no other you’re used to right now. ◊◊◊½ (Jeff Simon)


Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, “Live in Bangladore” (East Meets West Music, disc plus DVD). It’s too bad that the glorious music of India was pigenholed by film and TV music that signified “hippies” in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s. It’s one of the world’s greatest improvisational traditions. This is its greatest ambassador, Ravi Shankar, at the age of 92 playing his farewell concert in India with his extraordinary daughter Anoushka. When it was over, writes his widow Sukanya “I knew he was struggling a little to breathe and when I checked his oxygen saturation level, it was at 84. He defied all medical predictions by performing at such a low level – a normal person would have found it difficult to walk.” That’s what happens, apparently, with those for whom music is the stuff of life itself. ◊◊◊½ (Jeff Simon)

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