Bassist Charlie Haden is a giant of his instrument, but not because of any overbearing virtuosity; in fact, you could argue that he has had essentially no influence on the current generation of fleet-fingered (and often soulless) bassists intent on playing as many notes as everyone else on stage. Haden's music leads elsewhere. He has played an integral role in two of the more remarkable quartets of the last 30 years: the ones led by Ornette Coleman (in the early 60s) and Keith Jarrett (in the mid-70s). That should tell you plenty--though not as much as those musical virtues that made him so vital to Coleman and Jarrett in the first place: the deep resonance of his sound (which never ceases to astonish, no matter how often you've heard it); his lightning-quick ear for shifting tonal centers; and his elastic time sense, anchored as it is to an immovable rhythmic pulse. In Haden's Quartet West--the comparatively straight-ahead group he's been leading for the last couple years--those qualities are called upon less frequently; instead, Charlie gets to play a little straight time, walk the beat, and dig into a songbook that includes his own tunes, the occasional classic (like "Body and Soul"), and modern "standards" by Ornette. The group includes pianist Alan Broadbent and the sometimes powerful, always busy Ernie Watts on tenor sax. Tonight through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sherry Ryan Barnett.