Not far into his second set with Ethan Iverson at the Blue Note on Tuesday, Charlie Haden took a moment to recall their first meeting. It was at a 2006 memorial service for the tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. For his part in the program, Iverson sat at the piano to play “Broken Shadows,” a processional ballad from the 1971 Ornette Coleman album of the same name. (Redman and Haden both took part in that session, indelibly.) Afterward, Haden recalled, he introduced himself to Iverson, who greeted him this way: “I know what you’re going to say. I was playing your chords.”
Haden told that anecdote after he and Iverson had played a luminous duo version of “Broken Shadows.” At one point in his solo, Iverson had briefly risen from his seat, elucidating long arcs of notes with his right hand while plainly stating the melody with his left. His bond with Haden throughout the set was palpably deep. Among the other tunes called was Tadd Dameron Benny Harris’ “Wahoo.”
I was especially riveted by the Ornette/Dewey stuff, though, because of how deeply it engaged both musicians. This is something Iverson himself has covered in elaborate detail, perhaps most notably in the Haden Q&A he published last year (after an engagement much like this one). It should be read in full, but consider this exchange:
CH: I learned about the importance of listening playing with Ornette. We first played duo at his house, for days. I had never heard such beautiful melodies. He had his compositions written out with changes on them.
EI: There were changes on his charts?
CH: Yes, and he said to play on the changes until he left them, and then just follow him. At first I thought he meant he would play on the written changes for a little while, but then I realized he would be creating a new set of changes almost right away. So I discarded his changes and followed him.Sometimes the changes he had for the written parts didn't always fit, so I would look for the right note, even if it wasn't the root of the tonal center.
EI: Dewey Redman told me once that he was looking at a piece of Ornette's music and thought he heard some changes in there. He asked Ornette what the structure was, and Ornette responded by putting a chord symbol on every eighth note! He made sure never to ask Ornette that question again.
CH: Yeah, NEVER ask Ornette about the changes!
EI: So, you were making up the harmony. On some of the early music like "Lonely Woman," "Ramblin'", and "Una Muy Bonita," there is also a strong melody in the bass. I have a strong suspicion that those are yours too.
CH: Sometimes I would play what I was hearing instead of what he had written and he usually accepted it.
Haden’s bass-and-piano “Invitation Series” continues through the rest of the week, with a host of different pianists: Steve Kuhn (7/22), Kenny Barron (7/23 & 24), Paul Bley (7/25) & Bill Charlap (7/26). I imagine Ornette Coleman will be another point of reference on the Bley evening. I’m sorry I can’t be there every night.
Incidentally, bassist Reid Anderson was at the club for last night’s set. He’ll be joining Iverson, his Bad Plus band mate, for a Village Vanguard run next week. Paul Motian will be the drummer. That’s a whole different story, sort of.
- “Broken Shadows” – the original track, at Last.fm