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Album review: Charlie Haden's 'Sophisticated Ladies' CD

April 20, 2011 | 10:07 am

Haden220 Charlie Haden Quartet West, 'Sophisticated Ladies' (Emarcy)

Listen to this album on the right kind of night, and you can practically watch your field of vision shift from color into a smoky sort of black and white. Which isn't to say 73-year-old bass legend Charlie Haden has delivered some kind of musical anachronism, rather that with a record suffused with such vintage, widescreen atmosphere -- right down to its lobby card-evoking cover art -- you quickly start feeling like the star of your own noir epic.

Which certainly isn't a bad place to be, particularly with Haden and his expert band at the controls. True to its title, much of the album spotlights a variety of female vocalists, including Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson, who purrs around Haden's delicately arching solo on "My Love and I," a ballad from the 1954 film "Apache." Though the vocal tracks are lavish treats adorned with strings arranged by pianist Alan Broadbent, the quartet's rich instrumentals aren't to be overlooked, including saxophonist Ernie Watts' deft swing through Steve Kuhn's "Today I Am a Man" and the fleet-footed "Wahoo," a favorite of Charlie Parker. Those fixated on exploring the newest thing in jazz might overlook this elegant release, but Haden's efforts prove there's still pleasures in spending a night with the classics.

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-- Chris Barton

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