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In the early-’60s bassist Charlie Haden worked with avant-garde jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In 1969 he founded The Liberation Music Orchestra, an aggregation committed to performing complex, politically charged music. When Haden formed Quartet West in 1986, listeners quickly noted that this group represented a 180 degree shift in his focus. Where the Liberation Orchestra was abrasive and confrontational, Quartet West wallowed in the nostalgic, accessible mainstream. The Art Of The Song is an evocative collection of sombre ballads, immaculately performed by Haden, Alan Broadbent (piano), Ernie Watts (tenor), Larance Marable (drums), Shirley Horn (vocals), Bill Henderson (vocals); plus a string orchestra conducted by Murray Adler. Shirley Horn’s subtle, sparse renditions of Lonely Town, In Love In Vain and The Folks Who Live On The Hill stand out on a disc loaded with high points. Instrumentally, Ernie Watts (why doesn’t he sound this good on his own records?) provides a number of sensuous solos. Hypnotically beautiful. (####)