Charlie Haden's Nocturne
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., April 18, 2003
Charlie Haden's NocturneBass Concert Hall, April 13
A beautiful mind. That, is Gonzalo Rubalcaba's blessing. And he bows it in all its methodical glory as close to the piano keys as his tender hands will allow. Anchoring bass elder Charlie Haden's Latin-themed Quartet West alternate, Nocturne, featuring tenor saxophone master Joe Lovano, violinist Federico Britos Ruiz, and drummer Ignacio Berroa, the 39-year-old Havana-born pianist approaches his instrument as if it were alive and he were its physician -- with intimate knowledge. "It's not bebop you'll see," warned Haden by way of introducing the band, its boleros, and "beautiful ballads" that echoed throughout the quarter full Bass Concert like a spring evening reverie during Nocturne's 90-minute set. Like 2001's Grammy award-winning Nocturne CD, Rubalcaba arranged the evening's anti-bop languidity, flowing one deeply romantic composition into the next without ever breaking the illusion that it was all coming from one mother tributary. Dedicated to world peace, the performance was one to soothe agitated souls. Rubalcaba's crystalline ballets across the ivories were either swept up in Britos' solitary string symphonies or Lovano's delicate sax waltzes, Haden's bass humming low on the slight stage riser, while Berroa went round and round the snare with his two brushes. After the first number, sadly, Britos and Lovano seldom shared the stage, the former shaking the bass player's hand every time he exited stage left, but as a trio, Nocturne was the still of the night incarnate. Rubalcaba conjured notes, musical figures, and airy melodies that sounded like they were holding their breath. Rarely, if ever, hurried, even his flourishes cascaded like dominoes falling in slow motion. Every ripple puts its finger to its lips. Haden's solos were few and far between, matching Rubalcaba's in austere, minimalist bliss. Before the sole encore, Haden bowed the group to a standing ovation and wished world circumstances could be as harmonious as a little night jazz. "If everyone had great ears and good taste, what a world this would be." What a wonderful world this would be.