Missouri state of mind

Jazz legends Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden have journeyed into the mid-West. Phil Johnson listens in

It was like a re-make of some ancient H.M. Bateman cartoon about a scandalous drawing-room faux-pas.The launch of Beyond the Missouri Sky, the long-awaited collaboration between two famous American jazz musicians - bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Pat Metheny was a solemn affair.The technician had pressed play and the album had boomed sonorously from the hugely impressive stereo system. Then silence fell. The audience said nothing and the duo wriggled in their seats. Until, at last, I hesitantly made an enquiry. They weren't worried, were they, I said, that the album was a bit like muzak. It was that exquisite Bateman-esque moment of social embarrassment: "The Man Who Mentioned Muzak." Jaws dropped, heads turned, Charlie looked infinitely pained. Then he spoke: "I've never, ever, felt in danger of making muzak." And that was that. But, of course, Beyond the Missouri Sky is a bit like muzak. A duet for bass and guitar, with a few synthesised orchestral string-choruses, the music is so limpidly beautiful, so soft and compliant, that it could quite happily serve as sound sculptures to be heard in a lift or a pizza restaurant. There's the tune that sounds like the theme from The Deerhunter, the one that reminds you of the theme from Chariots of Fire, and there really is the theme from Cinema Paradiso. It's a great album too, perhaps the ultimate Sunday morning slobbing-around soundtrack, it's just that there's more sense of conflict and tension in an episode of Home and Away.

It wasn't always thus, and Haden's present peace of mind, as expressed in the lyrical beauty of the album, has been a hard-won thing. In 1957, he left his home in Forsyth, Missouri, to attend music college in Los Angeles. After becoming the bassist in the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet, helping to create free jazz, he went through a long bout of heroin addiction, which, unlike many of his peers such as Art Pepper and Chet Baker, he survived. He met Metheny, who grew up a hundred miles away, in Lee's Summit, Missouri, in 1973, at an Ornette Coleman concert. The guitarist, who is 17 years younger than Haden, became a star of fusion in the Seventies, and he remains one of the most commercially successful of all jazz musicians, mixing the guitar heroics of his own bands with occasional excursions into the experimental. When Haden married his present wife, Ruth Cameron, in 1989, Metheny was best man.

They had planned to make a record together for years and when the chance came, Beyond the Missouri Sky was recorded in a few days, on a low budget like most jazz albums. "It's about the country," Haden says when we meet again later. "It's about the mid-West, the heartland.'' Metheny, who has a striking frizzed-out hairstyle, a kind of jazz version of a Michael Bolton, concurred: "Missouri was about a time in my life when there was space to think about music." It's also, says Charlie, about wood. Come again? "I really play the wood of the instrument," he says. "When they made basses in the old days, they really had to find the best wood, and I think of the wood and the varnish as a musical sound, as an extension of the instrument's vibrations. "

The warmth of the album's sound is an effect that Haden, Metheny and their engineer strove to achieve (the album was recorded using a new, completely digital, process) in an attempt to recapture the feeling the two had when they played together in Haden's living room one New Year's Eve. When you listen to the music - and true muzak, of course, doesn't need to be listened to - it's like gathering around the campfire as Metheny's Huck Finn, and Haden's Mark Twain hunker down to tell their tales. Sure, they've all got happy endings, and there's a touch of Walt Disney in there somewhere, but it really is a beautiful record. Just don't mention muzak, right? n

'Beyond the Missouri Sky' is released on Verve

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map