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Interviews

Charlie Haden Remembers Tomorrow

By Published: March 7, 2003
AAJ: Why don't we talk about your new project, American Dreams with Mike Brecker. Can you talk about how it came about? You're doing originals as well as works by Jarrett, Metheny and Brad Meldau. How did you go about choosing those...what was the criteria?

CH: Well, I've got a collection of songs that I've had, I keep adding to and they're all great American composers. I wanted to showcase American composers and I've done that on a lot of my records and played things by American composers that I really respect and its just like in the Classical idiom, there's Charles Ives and Aaron Copeland and so I just wanted to do a record showcasing American composers and showcasing Michael Brecker and also Brad and Brian. And to show people how great the people who are born and raised in the United States (that) become involved in an art form, dedicated to an art form, are very unique and special people, and bring that to the public.

AAJ: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You chose to do it with an orchestra.

CH: Yeah, on some tracks. Some tracks are with quartet and some tracks are with synthesizer.

AAJ: You go way back with Pat (Metheny) and you're both credited with being an innovator of contemporary Americana like he and Frisell. How do you respond to that; is that something you're doing consciously?

CH: Well, I mean, that's something that writers do. l just try to play music from my heart and bring as much beauty as I can to as many people as I can. Just give them other alternatives, especially people who aren't exposed to creative music. It used to be that creative music was most of the music that you heard back in the 30's and 40's and now then its like 3%. So, its kind of a struggle getttin' it out there.

AAJ: Yeah, it's a shame.

CH: Yeah, it really is.

AAJ: Regarding the subsequent group - after Ornette - Old and New Dreams recording you're quoted as saying "The whole underlying theme for the new music...is to communicate honest, human values, and in doing that to try to improve the quality of life". Do you feel that's been a success and do you see yourself as a humanitarian and/or political activist?

CH: No I don't see myself that way. I just see myself as a human being that's concerned about life

AAJ: Do you have a particular philosophy or take on spirituality that's helped you through your career and through life?

CH: Just doing everything that one can to make this place a better place and fulfilling that responsibility, I guess.

AAJ: And you feel music's been effective with that.

CH: Well, I have music inside me and I'm very lucky to be able to play music and that's the way that l try to do it.

AAJ: Absolutely. Can you talk about your experience with working with Ornette...what was that like for you and what did you learn from him?

CH: Playing with Ornette was a learning experience, definitely. I had to really listen to everything that he played because he was always modulating from one key to another and I was the only chordal instrument in the band. There was no piano or guitar playing chords and so I had to play chords in my basslines and learn how to create new chord structures. It was a great band. I still play with Ornette.

AAJ: So I guess you had to learn to respond very quickly.

CH: Well, you know, it got to a point where he was responding to me and I was responding to him.

AAJ: Did he ever express directions or was it just through the playing that it was expressed, what needed to be said?

CH: Well, when we first started playing we did a lot of rehearsing and he used to write out everything. In fact that's the way everybody rehearses: we play the tunes and improvise.

AAJ: How do you express these kinds of concepts to your students. I mean, you probably have to get more specific. What do you want them to come away with?

CH: Well, I want them to come away with discovering the music inside them. And not thinking about themselves as jazz musicians, but thinking about themselves as good human beings, striving to be a great person and maybe they'll become a great musician, and then seeing themselves as musicians, away from jazz, so that they won't be influenced by other jazz people and they'll discover their own music, as if they'd never heard jazz.

AAJ: So you encourage them to explore other types of music as well.

CH: Oh yeah. And painting, dancing, everything.

AAJ: Find out who they are. Was it with that thought that you worked with Rickie Lee Jones and Bruce Hornsby?

CH: I worked with them because like their music and they called me to do a record with them and l did.

AAJ: Can you talk about your work with Jarrett and some of the recordings you've done? (beginning in 1966 and including Arbor Zena, Eyes of the Heart, Survivors Suite and Death and the Flower )

CH: Oh man. We did a lot of recordings and we played a lot of years together. He's a great composer and a great musician and that was one of the great quartets, I think.

AAJ: Yeah. That kind of compels me to ask what you learned there. I mean, what was he looking for?


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