It was an exciting weekend for the Hadens, one of L.A.’s foremost musical families, as two adoring crowds on two separate nights saw that talent (and a cheeky sense of humor) didn’t skip a generation. When Petra Haden announced at her Saturday night concert that a few guests would join her onstage for covers of “Cinema Paradiso” and “This Is Not America,” you couldn’t help but hope one would be her father, legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden. As it turns out, Haden paterfamilias was across town receiving an honorary Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
Two nights later, a capacity crowd in a North Pasadena printing factory gave the elder Haden a standing ovation. Plagued by recent health problems, he made it slowly but surely to the stage supported by a cane and the adoration of the crowd. Sponsored by MUSI/QUE, “Jazz Laid Down” is one in a series of musical salons in non-traditional settings. Dressed in a banker’s dark suit, Haden spent a while tuning his bass, often with his ear pressed against the neck of an instrument that practically dwarfed him. “Anybody wanna play some chess? There’s enough time for it,” he joked in a hepcat rasp as pianist Larry Goldings marked time with a wintry etude. “In California, it’s very difficult to get in tune because of the climate,” Haden explained. “When I was two years old and singing on the radio with my family, my dad kept a switch on the wall. He never used it, but he always told me, ‘Charlie, don’t ever go flat or go sharp.'”
In the shadow of a colossal Lithrone S40 industrial printer, Haden, backed by Goldings and the sextet Tritone Asylum, eased into “Blue in Green.” Known as the centerpiece of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, it’s a jazz standard by late pianist Bill Evans, who along with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, keyboardist Hampton Hawes, multi-instrumentalist Ralph Towner, and guitarist Pat Metheny (one of Haden’s friends and frequent collaborators) were the featured composers on the program. As the rest of the ensemble fell silent, Haden burrowed into an extended solo, keeping his head down as he played, unfurling deep and ropy chords and hovering over every note as if to wring every ounce of life out of them. Then, grinning and limned with perspiration, he stayed afterwards to meet and greet the crowd.
Two nights earlier, his daughter Petra had turned Koreatown’s First Unitarian Church into a mellow hipster hoedown. Performing tracks from her latest album, Petra Goes to the Movies, she presided over a 17-song set of a cappella covers of iconic movie themes. The set list included the themes from Psycho and Rebel Without A Cause as well as “Hand Covers Bruise” from The Social Network. She transformed them all into trippy, see-sawing madrigals. She sang songs with lyrics too, turning “Calling You” from Baghdad Cafe and “It Might be You” from Tootsie into poignant, jazz-inflected laments. She offered up a skewed Romper Room-style sing-a-long on The Who’s “Tattoo” and a tip-of-the-surfboard to Brian Wilson on the encore “God Only Knows.” For a majestic, warts-and-all take on John Williams’ theme from Superman, Haden whipped her long red scarf around like a cape and pantomimed Man of Steel heroics as a spotlight transformed her shadow into 50-foot silhouette on the chapel wall. Super, woman.