This recording was made on November 5, 2007 at the Christuskirche in Mannheim, Germany, during the Enjoy Jazz Festival. It was on a Sunday, on September 19, 1993 to be exact, that Charlie Haden heard Brad Mehldau for the first time. Charlie and I were walking through the halls of the Hidden Valley Resort located in the Laurel Mountains in southwest Pennsylvania. The resort was sponsoring a jazz festival and Charlie had just finished an interview after which we needed to get back to the hotel room in order to prepare for Charlie’s sound-check and concert that night. As we hurried through the hall, one could hear, from behind the closed doors of the auditorium we passed, the sounds of a concert in progress,
Now, Charlie had the biggest ears of anyone in jazz, and while we were walking and talking, Charlie came to a sudden halt and said, “Shhh!"
His eyes opened wide as he crept to the door to listen. Someone was taking a solo. He said to me, "I have to go in and listen." We entered the auditorium and stood at the back to listen to the rest of the concert. It was Joshua Redman’s band with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade who, together, in 1994 recorded Joshua’s album Moodswing.
Once the concert was finished Charlie strode to the stage to greet the guys and to speak directly to the young pianist. It was Brad Mehldau who had taken that solo. They spoke for some time, and when Charlie came back to me, he said, “That pianist is brilliant. He is special, so unique.” Charlie would later go on to pronounce Brad one of the most important musicians of his generation because of his unique voice, his depth of knowledge of and facility on the instrument, and how he has moved the language of jazz forward.
Eventually, in 1996, Charlie found a way to bring Brad out to LA to perform with Lee Konitz and him at the Jazz Bakery. This led to a trio recording on Blue Note (1997) called Alone Together. In 2011, he and Brad recorded a live album with Lee Konitz, and Paul Motian for ECM called Live at Birdland. Brad and Charlie remained friends from the time of their first meeting. They had a special connection. In the early days, Charlie, in a sense, mentored this young pianist in life lessons. Personally, I think he saw a bit of himself in this young brilliant player.
The two musicians, however, had never had the chance to perform on stage in duo when, in 2007, Rainer Kern, the director of the Enjoy Jazz Festival in the Heidelberg region of Germany, invited Charlie and Brad to play a duet concert at a beautiful church, the Christuskirche in Mannheim. This was a rare opportunity for the two of them to have a musical dialogue and they both eagerly agreed. Rainer had asked to record the concert but the two artists said an emphatic, “No!” I, however, had a feeling about this concert and was able to talk the two musicians into relenting as Rainer graciously agreed to let us own the tapes. For contractual reasons regarding both musicians, the recording could not be released until now. Charlie listened to the tape often and dearly wanted to release it at some point. I am forever grateful to Rainer Kern for allowing us to record and own the work. As a result we have a dazzling testament to the interaction between two genius musicians: piano and bass, their brilliance resounding through the hallowed space of an art nouveau cathedral, recorded on November 5, 2007.
I must thank, first and foremost, Charlie Haden and Brad Mehldau for their transcendent performances and the devotion they show to the music. A special thanks to Brad Mehldau for being such a wonderful partner throughout this entire project. I must thank our friend, Rainer Kern for organizing this concert, and acknowledge the Enjoy Jazz Festival team for its support. Thank-you Jean-Philippe Allard for believing in the music and agreeing to release this recording on Universal Music, France. JP has been a great friend to Charlie’s music for many years.
It took a lot more people to make this recording happen as several parties had to agree thus many thanks to the hard work our lawyers put in to bring this project to fruition: Fred Ansis of Reed Smith LLP, Paul Bezilla of Fox Rothschild LLP, Valerie Foray and Christelle D’Almeida of Universal Music, Scott Southard and Tom Korkidis of IMN, Nanette Monton of Warner Bros. Records Inc, Bob Hurwitz, Nonesuch Records. Additional thanks to our friends, Farida Bachir, Jenny Defaut, Pascal Bod and Nicolas Pflug of Universal Music, France.
One of the most important aspects of recording is mixing and mastering. Charlie and I have worked with the recording engineer ,Jay Newland, for many years and he, again, worked his magic, bringing us the full experience of this live recording despite the inherent difficulties of such a recording taking place in an echo-resounding cathedral. Thank-you, Jay, for your incredible ears and skill. Many thanks to our mastering engineer, Mark Wilder of Battery Studios for his dedication to sound and his understanding that “Jazz is more than notes on a piece of paper.” Many thanks to Joe D’Ambrosio for facilitating the mixing and mastering process.
I need to mention the cover art. The painting was done by a friend of Charlie’s and mine, the Dutch-American painter, Luc Leestemaker who passed away in 2012. He had a timeless poetic style that Charlie and I really loved. Luc revered Charlie’s music, and we revered Luc’s paintings. We also used one of his paintings for the cover of Charlie’s album Land of the Sun. It feels good that Luc and Charlie get to do a project together again.
Charlie is gone now, and this recording was made “long ago and far away”, yet the music remains immediate. The music is now.
Ruth Cameron Haden, Los Angeles, California, July 2018