A Moment of "Silence" for Charlie Haden, From Petra Haden and Egberto Gismonti
Charlie Haden composed his share of memorable songs — perhaps none more enduring than "Silence," a ballad with the elegant austerity of a Bach chorale.
Haden, the incalculably influential bassist and bandleader, died in 2014 at 76, leaving behind many versions of the tune. He played it in the Keith Jarrett Quartet in 1976, and with pianist John Taylor in 2003. He recorded it with his Liberation Music Orchestra, with Geri Allen and Paul Motian, and with Chet Baker (for an album by the same name).
Several years ago, Charlie's daughter Petra Haden — one of the Haden Triplets, and a solo artist of insatiable creative energies — posted an a cappella arrangement of "Silence" to her YouTube channel. The video found its way to Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti, whose history with Charlie Haden, and the song, spans more than 40 years.
With help from producer Dany Roland, Gismonti added a harmonium part to Petra's track, and passed it back along. Surprised and touched by the gesture, she recorded more vocal layers, finishing what amounts to a new single in memory of her father.
Petra tells WBGO she probably first heard "Silence" at age 11 or 12: "I loved singing along to it because the pace was slow and the harmonies were beautiful. I remember watching him play the chords on the piano, and thinking how sad it sounded. But as the song builds, there's a feeling of hope."
Gismonti recorded a canonical early version of "Silence," with Haden and saxophonist Jan Garbarek, for their ECM album Mágico in 1979. He savored the opportunity to revisit the song.
"I played 'Silence' so many times with Charlie, my dear road playmate," Gismonti says in a statement. "Our meeting in the clouds is a beautiful opportunity to dedicate Charlie's chords through my harmonium. Charlie told me once that he liked the feeling of never knowing which way our music would go."
For Petra, this new version of "Silence" is simply the latest love offering to Charlie and his legacy of song — joining an album with the Nick Haywood Quintet, called Songs From My Father, and the latest Haden Triplets release, The Family Songbook. Both of those released last year; the latter features contributions from guitarist Bill Frisell, a longtime Charlie Haden associate who featured Petra on his recent Harmony. (Among the tender highlights of that release is a Charlie Haden tune, "There in a Dream.")
Getting to collaborate with Egberto is a dream come true. I'm grateful to Dany Roland for making this possible. Some of my favorite albums growing up were Magico and Folk Songs, both featuring Egberto and my Dad, with Jan Garbarek. I would just cry at how beautiful the music was. One of my favorite songs by Egberto is called “7 Anéis” and I used to dream about singing that song with them on stage.
As a closing thought, Petra reaches for some wisdom from a trusted source. "Throughout my life, my Dad would remind me how important it is to share your gifts to the world," she says. "Sharing the gifts you have helps to spread hope and positivity all around us. This is what 'Silence' means to me."
Petra Haden and Egberto Gismonti's "Silence" is out today.