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Charlie Haden: Land of the Sun

Dan McClenaghan By

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Most of the Latin jazz offerings out there seem to be focused on the sounds of Cuba and Brazil. Charlie Haden's Land of the Sun pulls us into a musical trip to Mexico with his takes on a set of eight songs from the pen of Mexican composer Jose Sabre Marroquin and one each from Augustine Lara and Armando Manzanero.

Bassist Haden teams up once again with pianist Gonzalo Rubalcala, his collaborator on the Grammy-winning Nocturne. Rubalcala—a facile and fluid pianist, with a penchant for delicate beauty—wrote the arrangements here, and proves himself a superlative artist in that arena, too. He weaves flute, saxophones, guitars and trumpet into the piano trio sound with an extraordinary grace and suppleness; and the individual soloists, Rubalcala included, rise to the occasion. This music flows like a dream, anchored by drummer Ignacio Berroa, with a good deal of subtle brushwork; and Juan De La Cruz, who delivers a soft and succinct bubbling of bongo percussion to the mix.

The set's opener, "Fuiste Tu (It Was You)," tinkles in on the pianist's light touch, a music box delicacy in his notes as Marroquin's melody floats along into a slightly tart and introspective alto sax solo by Miguel Zenon. And that sets the tone for the sound. Gorgeous ballads delivered in a dreamy time suspension, with elegance and grace.

This sound is a long way from my first encounter with Charlie Haden on Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz , that fervid, fractious, fabulous cacophony from 1960. On Land of the Sun his bass is suffused with a great expansive substance and insistent yet gentle and unobtrusive weight, anchoring a work of understated, shameless loveliness strewn with supple soloing from tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, flautist Oriente Lopez, trumpeter/flugelhornist Michael Rodriquez, and guitarists Larry Koonse and Lionel Louke.

Charlie Haden has brought together a group of first-rate musicians and a batch of elegant Marroquin songs (plus two), and he's made magic.

Track Listing: Fuiste Tu, Sueno Solo Con Tu Amor, Cancion De Cuna, Solomente Una Vez, Nostalgia, De Siepre, Anoranza, Cuando Te Podre Olvidar, Esta Tarde Vi Llover, Paolo's Song

Personnel: Charlie Haden—bass; Gonzalo Rubalcala-piano; Ignacio Berroa—drums; with: Joe Lovano—tenor saxophone; Miguel Zenon—alto saxophone; Michael Rodriquez—trumpet, flugelhorn; Oriente Lopez—flute; Larry Koonse, Lionel Louke—guitar; uan De La Cruz—percussion

Title: Land of the Sun | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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