Charlie Haden: An Analog Guy in a Digital World
AAJ: With the exception of Zeitlin, you weren’t playing much with pianists in the early ‘60s, right?
CH: No, I played with Hamp [Hawes] a lot, and I played with Elmo [Hope] a lot, and I played with different piano players in New York on different gigs. It was just here and there. And Sonny Clark I played with too, in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
AAJ: I guess I was getting the idea of an Ornette-related conscious avoidance of pianists during that time, but that’s not true.
CH: Well, I was seeking out pianists, because playing with Ornette I was the pianist! I was playing all the chords of the notes in my bass lines, and that’s how I learned about constructing bass lines with beautiful intervals that made up chords, modulating from one key to another and so forth.
AAJ: Right, so the term ‘piano-less quartet’ is not entirely appropriate conceptually.
CH: Well, it is because you do not have a chordal instrument in the band.
AAJ: Speaking of piano-less quartets, one question that has always plagued me is how that gig with Alan Shorter [Orgasm, Verve 8768, 1968] came about.
CH: Oh, he called; you know I used to hang out with him. I played a club in New York called the Dom with Tony Scott, and I met Keith there. A lot of musicians used to come through there and Alan came in a lot, playing trumpet. He asked me to make this record with him, and Gato [Barbieri] was on it. I can’t remember much about it, but he brought a copy of the record over to my house with this wild look on his face saying, ‘here’s the record, man; it’s called Orgasm!’ I said ‘What? Why in the world did you call it that?’ The guy was a little bit ‘out there.’ I just remember going to the studio and recording, and cracking up hanging out with Alan. He was so funny and such a great player. If he had ever gotten his mind straightened out, he would’ve been a tremendous musician. He wasn’t in good shape mentally; he had some emotional problems.
AAJ: It’s a shame he dropped off in the early ‘70s. Wayne [Shorter, his younger brother] doesn’t really seem to want to talk about him either, so it’s hard to piece anything together.
CH: Well, Wayne is kind of out there himself, you know.
AAJ: Yeah, Alan’s just one of those people I wonder about...
CH: It’s a good thing to wonder about him. He’s one of those players nobody really knows about, and he was a tremendous player. There were so many musicians living in New York at the time that nobody ever really knew, like Tony Fruscella, a trumpet player who was so beautiful. He made one album under his own name for Atlantic. Oh man, that guy was amazing.
AAJ: And you played with [reedman] Giuseppi Logan on the Roswell Rudd date.
CH: Oh yeah, and Carlos Ward, Roswell, Grachan Moncur III, Don Pullen, Charles Brackeen, Henry Grimes. Henry has come back, from what I hear.
AAJ: Yeah, he’s hanging out in New York. William Parker found him a bass and is getting gigs for him and stuff. He was a real powerhouse.
CH: He used to come to the Five Spot every night smoking his pipe, sitting at the bar and looking right in my face while I was playing.
AAJ: Did you do any teaching of the bass during that time?
CH: Not then. I founded the Jazz Studies Program at the California Institute of the Arts 22 years ago, and that’s in Valencia.
AAJ: I was actually talking with Buell Neidlinger about Cal Arts recently.
CH: Oh, yeah, he got there before I did. I don’t think there was a jazz department at that time.
AAJ: No, he was doing more classical stuff; that was the impression I got.
CH: Yeah, he was teaching classical, and that’s mostly what he did. But he wanted to play jazz with Cecil.
AAJ: How did your involvement with the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra come about?
CH: The Jazz Composers’ Orchestra started out with Mike Mantler and Carla [Bley] when they were together, and we did an album called Escalator over the Hill [JCOA EOTH, 1969] and one called The Jazz Composers Orchestra [JCOA 1001/1002, 1968], and there were a lot of different musicians. We played some concerts, but mostly we made those records. It was nice, but it didn’t last long.
AAJ: How did the Liberation Music Orchestra come out of that? How are they related?