Anchoring the flights of Ornette Coleman, championing Third World political struggles with his Liberation Music Orchestra, or playing imaginary noir soundtracks for the Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler with his Quartet West, bassist Charlie Haden has proved to be a romantic at heart. In Nocturne, he explores bolero, a Cuban-style ballad that enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s. His terrific collaborators (set up here in trios and quartets) include pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who doubled as co-producer; guitarist Pat Metheny; saxophonists Joe Lovano and David Sánchez; violinist Federico Britos Ruiz; and drummer Ignacio Berroa. The musicianship is undisputable and the playing, for the most part, never less than apt, but Nocturne hits the notes and misses the feeling.
Rubalcaba gets it right, now prodding, now laying back, surprisingly sensitive and modest. But Haden’s style, so rich yet elemental, sounds heavy-handed here. And Berroa is mechanical, content with repeating the same rhythmic figure in the brushes in eight of the nine tracks he plays on. Ruiz is a nice surprise, and Sánchez knows his way around a bolero, but for the most part the soloing is unmemorable. Think of whispering sweet nothings to a metronome. The best track, Rubalcaba’s (drummerless) " Transparence, " plays out like a poem that’s subtly constructed on interlocking, unfinished lines. Thematically elusive and emotionally ambiguous, it is, in a way, an anti-bolero, and it underscores how mysterious romance can be.
Issue Date: May 10 - 16, 2001