Charlie Haden Quartet West
EmArcy 2750816 (www.emarcy.com)
Grammy Award-winning bassist Charlie Haden and his singer/wife Ruth Cameron have married two of their loves on “Sophisticated Ladies” - classic songs by American composers and contemporary female jazz singers. These aren't so much the hard-core jazzers of today as they are the beautiful balladeers such as Melody Gardot, Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall. Neither are these tired standards; Haden and Cameron have chosen some lesser-known but gorgeous songs with lyrics a girl can really wrap her voice around. An interesting addition to the roster is operatic soprano Renée Fleming. Her big, rich voice and ability to deliver a lyric, along with Alan Broadbent's lush yet restrained string arrangement and sax master Ernie Watts' plaintive tenor lines, turn A Love Like This into an ode to the beginning of a love affair that works itself all the way down into your chest cavity and won't get out.
Another standout on the disc is Ill Wind which Norah Jones' warm, throaty delivery imbues with just the right amount of fatalism to let us know things are going to get bad, but nothing we can't handle. Interspersed with the vocal tunes are instrumentals by the flawless Quartet West, Haden's band since 1986. To counterbalance the down-tempos of the ladies, the men give us some boppy stuff like Wahoo where they can stretch out a little but not as far out as they would have in the days when Haden played with Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. The disc as a whole has an appealing 60s noir feel just right for a cool yet contemplative evening or as backdrop to a “Mad Men” style cocktail party with hipster friends.