It's a grim reality, but there's one thing you don't expect from
Stricken by post-
And yet, Haden couldn't help but be heard. Describing his vocal cords as paralyzed as a result of polio, he stepped from his conductor's chair to a nearby microphone between nearly every piece, a perilous journey to watch (if there was ever a time for a pinned-on microphone, this was it).
With his voice so wispy and fragile you could feel the sold-out venue reaching to cradle it, Haden shared an intimate story about his friend and fellow bassist Scott LaFaro one moment, and in another moment gleefully mangled the punch line for a joke about a duck walking into a bar.
"I'm not going to talk anymore," Haden finally said before the band began. "Because once I start I can't stop." (Fortunately, only the last part was true.)
Because there was, after all, music to be heard -- even on a night so fraught with the shadow of that unwelcome guest artist who can sit in at any moment: Time.
It was a broad program that began to feel like an effort to capture a life's work, one that could not have been better underscored for Haden than with the involvement of student musicians from CalArts. Since founding the school's jazz program in 1982, Haden has touched generations of artists not just with his music, but his guidance as well.
You could see his instructive hand as he led his charges through a bouyant version of "Nkosi Sikeleh Afrika," a dedication to Nelson Mandela that found Haden tapping the beat into the air with his right hand. Even with his thin voice, Haden could be heard exulting with an occasional "woo!" on the bandstand, punctuating a flowing cover of his "Not in Our Name" here, in admiration for a French horn solo by Erin Poulin there.