A TOP JAZZ RECORDING OF 2014. Bassist Charlie Haden has a thing for piano duets and over the years his recordings with Kenny Barron, John Taylor, Chris Anderson and especially Hank Jones document performances full of magical interplay, but Jasmine (ECM), his 2010 album with pianist Keith Jarrett was something more, transcendent as music and art. Recorded in 2007 in Jarrett’s small home studio, the pianist and Haden didn’t rehearse ahead of time, yet merely discussed song choice, chord changes and such before rolling tape. The process yielded standards and ballads that were deeply and equally felt by the musicians and listeners alike.
Last Dance is an elegant sequel and comes from the same sessions with a continued emphasis on poignant ballads and alternate takes of “Where Can I Go Without You” and Gordon Jenkin’s “Goodbye.” It’s an album that’s easy to love, particularly since Jarrett adds a mid-tempo version of Bud Powell’s “Dance Of The Infidels” to the otherwise serene set list. In a change of pace, Monk’s “Round Midnight” is refreshed by the remarkable flow of notes from Jarrett and stunning sound from Haden’s instrument; his tone is full, deep and round.
As with Jasmine, Last Dance is recorded in spectacular fashion. It amplifies the quality of their playing, most evident on “My Old Flame,” which the duo illuminates with subtle swing. The Gershwin/Weill tune, “My Ship,” sails as an after-hours ballad, its melody shimmering and honestly played with the pianist hitting sparkling high notes at the denouement. This is Jarrett at his most accessible, though Haden steals the spotlight with his intimate solo, reminding us why he is so esteemed.
To our delight, Last Dance brings two of the world’s finest musicians together again, one a restless perfectionist and the other finding happiness by exploring musical genres of all types. The album reveals both at their best, reveling in the beauty of song and warmth shared between longtime friends. Apart from the implication behind the album’s title, you can’t help feeling bittersweet near the album’s end as they intimately play Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” – it’s the shortest track on the album and packs an emotional punch. (9 tracks; 76 minutes)