Two discs 71,75 minutes each approximately. The remastered sound is very good-especially for live recordings from 1987-88. There are no real notes to speak of-except some personal thoughts from Haden concerning each concert. The discs are snapped in,inside the four-fold-out cardboard holder,which is nicely done with a pen-and-ink drawing of Haden and his instrument. There are a number of b&w photos of various members of the group inside the holder,which are nice but small in size.
This is a re-release of two separate recordings that were originally released in very small quantities. The first disc features Haden on double bass,Ernie Watts-saxophones,Alan Broadbent-piano,and the drummer's drummer (the late) Billy Higgins,who Haden has played on and off with for some three decades. The second (recorded near Haden's boyhood home) disc has identical personnel except Higgins is replaced with Paul Motian,another legendary jazz musician.
The first disc (recorded at Haden's 50th birthday) has a slight jam session feel to it (which is fine) but the compositions and the high caliber of musicianship more than compensate for any looseness in the playing. The tunes range from two Pat Metheny songs ("Hermitage" and "Farmer's Trust"),to Miles Davis ("Nardis"),to two Charlie Parker tunes ("Passport","Segment"),to a tune each by Tony Scott ("Misery") and J.S. Bach ("Etudes"),all which the group attacks in equal amounts of subtle fervor and restrained skill-all from many years of playing both together (Haden's QUARTET WEST) and with many other jazz greats.
The second disc comes from a live public concert in 1988. In comparison to the first disc,these tracks have a bit more life in them,thanks in large part to Watt's angular sounding sax. Motian's drumming is also a bit more forceful sounding almost as if this were his group. And Haden's bass playing (especially solo) is truly great-thoughtful yet visceral. The compositions range from Metheny (with "Farmer's Trust" again),to Charlie Parker ("Visa"),to two tracks by Haden ("Bay City" and "Silence"),to Ornette Coleman ("Lonely Woman"),to a standard ("Body and Soul"),all which have a livelier sound to them than the private recordings on disc one.
For anyone who's heard the 1986 album by QUARTET WEST (if you haven't you're missing some great straight ahead jazz),this is more of the same-in other words,well worth seeking out. The warm,intelligent musicianship,the wide-ranging compositions,the arrangements (even on the loose first disc),all make this set something special. This is jazz from the days when melodies mattered,from true group interplay when a solo was something that was played strictly to advance the music-not the musician's ego. The musicians on both these sets come from an age when musicians listened to each other and contributed something of true value. A time when the song was (is) the thing. If you like unpretentious,straight ahead,no nonsense jazz,with great solos out in front of an equally fine rhythm section-this is one of the better releases in a long while. It's to bad it took so long to finally see this music released on a larger scale,but the wait was worth it-listen and you,too, will hear why.