The other musician on the album, it seems, had much to do with that style. Once again, Charlie Haden is teaming on another duo album along the lines of his and Kenny Barron’s Night and the City or his and Pat Metheny’s Beyond the Missouri Sky or his and Hank Jones’ Steal Away. Now Hobgood and Haden can be added to the list of duo album musicians, all because of their chance meeting at an IAJE convention when they had a "Let’s do it!" idea to record together.
The result certainly could be described as elegant, elevating and even at times stately. Not only does the Hobgood/Haden duo perform two of Haden’s compositions, but also they are consistent with the resonating deliberate pace with which Haden anchored the performances on the other albums. Not once does Hobgood unleash the musical furies he holds at bay the ones that agitated his solos on some of Kurt Elling’s most exciting recordings like "Ginger Bread Boy" or "Delores’ Dream." No, Hobgood’s work on When the Heart Sings remains graceful, with a light undulating touch over the entire keyboard on his own improvisational, apparently classically influenced pieces like "Leatherwood." And so, one is reminded that Hobgood produced Elling’s albums that featured memorable improvisation under Elling’s sometimes poignant, sometimes hipster-ish, sometimes wacky, sometimes narrative poetry, as on "The Beauty of All Things" or "The Rent Party."
Even the swaying Doris Day number from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, "Que Sera Sera" which she performed in sing-song fashion as her TV theme song proceeds a in largo tempo, like a folk song, without much embellishment, but rather as an appreciation of the tune’s possibilities through slight harmonic substitutions under the clearly stated melody. Haden establishes its pace with his half notes before his own quiet, dignified solo. "Que Sera Sera," though defying expectations of interpretation, sets the tone for the entire album, and so it goes when "When the Heart Dances" follows with, yes, its terpsichorean warming-up introduction cascading into the lightly played three-four theme. Even Hoagy Carmichael’s "New Orleans" receives similar delicacy of interpretation rather than relying on a heavy emphasis on bluesiness with contrapuntal treble and bass lines and thirty-second-noted ripples over Haden’s rock-solid rhythm. Hobgood and Haden convey a dark sense of melancholy in Don Grolnick’s minor-key "The Cost of Living," film noir-ish in the strength of its visual suggestion of foreboding.
Elling joins the duo on three of the tracks, but there is no doubt that this is Hobgood’s project. Elling’s singing is consistent with the pace and feel of the rest of the album. That is, Elling provides words to the sentiment and emotions established throughout When the Heart Dance as he sings Haden’s "First Song," with straightforward expressiveness through the first chorus before Haden himself solos. Likewise, on "Stairway to the Stars" and "Daydream," Elling remains mostly within the melodic confines of the songs, instead of taking off and making them his own.
For When the Heart Dances, Hobgood and Haden recorded exactly what they wanted: an album on which they can "just play music" of their choice and at their leisure and on their own terms. Their own pleasure in the process of making music together naturally transfers into the beauty of the results.