Charlie Haden & Hank Jones: Steal Away / Come Sunday

The Songs:

Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns And Folk Songs

  1. Steal AwayIt’s Me, O Lord (Standing In The Need Of Prayer)
  2. Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
  3. Spiritual
  4. Wade In The Water
  5. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  6. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
  7. L’Amour De Moy
  8. Danny Boy
  9. I’ve Got A Robe, You Got A Robe (Goin’ To Shout All Over God’s Heav’n)
  10. Steal Away
  11. We Shall Overcome
  12. Go Down, Moses
  13. My Lord, What A Mournin’
  14. Hymn Medley: Abide With Me / Just As I Am, Without One Plea / What A Friend We Have In Jesus / Amazing Grace

Come Sunday

  1. Come SundayTake My Hand, Precious Lord
  2. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  3. Down By The Riverside
  4. Going Home
  5. Blessed Assurance
  6. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
  7. Bringing In The Sheaves
  8. Deep River
  9. Give Me That Old Time Religion
  10. Sweet Hour Of Prayer
  11. The Old Rugged Cross
  12. Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
  13. Nearer My God To Thee
  14. Come Sunday

Personnel:

  • Hank Jones – piano
  • Charlie Haden – bass

(In memory of Charlie Haden. I couldn’t decide which of these albums to post, so I finally decided to choose them both.)

In the summer of 1994, two jazz icons gathered in a studio to record an album of American roots music: spirituals, gospel hymns, and a couple of folk songs. Pianist Hank Jones, the older brother of cornetist Thad (co-leader with Mel Lewis of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), and drummer Elvin, (from John Coltrane’s famous quartet), grew up listening and playing this music in church, where his father was an active Baptist deacon. Likewise, Charlie Haden, an important sideman in Ornette Coleman’s and Keith Jarrett’s groups, as well as leader of his own, such as the Liberation Orchestra and Quartet West, started out performing with his family in Missouri while only a toddler, singing and playing country, folk, and gospel tunes. Both men were socially and politically active, especially in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960’s. (Haden had previously recorded “We Shall Overcome” with his Liberation Orchestra.)

In addition, Jones and Haden had a common and complementary approach to music. Both were fundamentally concerned with melody and simplicity in their playing styles. The combination of these elements formed a remarkable pair of albums, beginning with Steal Away. Their approach to recording these pieces was not simply to “jazz them up,” but to offer simple, uncluttered, takes that allowed the dignity and depth of the traditional spirituals and folk songs to shine through without need of further ornamentation.

Haden and Jones, (taken the recording session for "Come Sunday")

Haden and Jones, (taken during the recording sessions for “Come Sunday”)

After a span of over 15 years, the duo reunited to record Come Sunday, much like its predecessor, but dedicated completely to sacred music, including two Christmas carols and the acclaimed title track by Duke Ellington, (which he recorded with Mahalia Jackson). This would turn out to be Hank Jones’ final recording. The results of both albums offer meditative and worshipful music that captures the essence of jazz and faith, evoking what Charlie Haden always referred to as the importance of “being in the moment,” unconcerned about yesterday or tomorrow. These recordings pay tribute to music of the past, but bring it squarely into the present, offering a respite from the pressures or cares of day-to-day life.

Steal Away was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1996. Both albums cracked Billboard’s Top 10 for Jazz Albums. (Come Sunday also reached the Top 10 in the Christian and Gospel charts.) In reviewing Steal Away for Allmusic, Scott Yanow’s comments could apply equally to either album:

The traditional music… are all performed respectfully and with reverence. These melodic yet subtly swinging interpretations hold one’s interest throughout and reward repeated listenings.

Indeed, the rewards of repeated listenings just seem to increase with each play. These are perfect albums for Sunday morning, late night reflection, or any other time of quiet devotion. It is clear why both of these great artists were NEA Jazz Masters. (Buy them here and here.)

Suggested Reading:

Howard Thurman. Deep River And The Negro Spiritual Speaks Of Life And Death.

Suggested Viewing:

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