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Charlie Haden Remembers Tomorrow

By Published: March 7, 2003
CH: We were all just looking to play beautiful music that made people feel good.

AAJ: What about your own composing. How do you go about that?

CH: Yeah, I just sit down at the piano and rattle it off.

AAJ: Its already in your head?

CH: Sometimes. You never know...where its gonna come from.

AAJ: What are you most proud of as far as the things you've written?

CH: Oh man, I could do better on everything. I really couldn't tell you. I just gotta write more music, I know that.

AAJ: Of course not many people can say they've won a Guggenheim Fellowship for that.

CH: Yeah, that was nice.

AAJ: How do you see the present role of the bass in contemporary improvised music and how has this evolved from your beginnings with country music?

CH: Well, the bass, no matter what kind of music you're playing, it just enhances the sound and makes everything sound more beautiful and full. When the bass stops the bottom kind of drops out of everything. I always approach music by thinking about the person I'm playing with and listening to the way they play and trying to enhance whatever is going on.

AAJ: I remember you mentioned in an interview once regarding a call to record with James Cotton and that you were a little bit nervous about that but that it turned out great. What made you feel that way about a gig like that?

CH: Well, you know, James Cotton is a real blues guy and he played with Muddy Waters and it surprised me that they would want me to make a record with them, that he called me to do this record and I'd never done anything like that before. But I love blues, you know, and so I was very happy and especially when we started to play everything made sense and it was really a great experience. I learned a lot doing that.

AAJ: Was that a one shot record or did you guys tour a bit.

CH: No, we didn't tour but the record won a Grammy for best blues album.

AAJ: Can you talk about The Avant Guard album you did with Trane?. That must've been an amazing experience. What do you recall from that date?

CH: He used to come in the Five Spot a lot when we were playing (with Ornette) and got to know everybody and at some point he asked Don and I and Blackwell to do a record. And some of the tunes we did with him were destroyed in a fire at Atlantic and the ones that didn't got released.

AAJ: How about your work with Pat (Metheny). You've worked with him in so many different ways. Can you talk about the recordings: 80/81, Rejoicing, Wish and Missouri Sky ?

CH: Pat is also a great musician and composer and a close friend and we've been playing together many years and every time we play together its great and very special. He's one of the musicians that have incorporated electronics into an acoustic instrument and made it sound like his own and made it real.

AAJ: l would say that he doesn't have any boundaries as far as what he'd explore or what he'd try.

CH: That's right.

AAJ: I mean, he's got an incredible imagination.

CH: Sure does, man.

AAJ: What's the status of the next duo recording with him? ls it live material from the last tour?

CH: No. We're talking about it. Whatever its gonna be, its gonna be great. I think its gonna be in the studio. We're gonna go to Europe in April. (see -

AAJ: Will you be doing the states at all?

CH: l don't know about that.

AAJ: You also did a trio record with Joe Henderson and Al Foster...

CH: Joe and I and Al did some work together at Vanguard and different places and he called me to do this recording session with him in Italy with Al. And Al and I had played many times together and I love his playing and that was really a fun concert. Joe is incredible. He told me that that is his favorite record of his playing.

AAJ: You were recently named "Jazz Educator of the Year" and you're also Founder of the Jazz Studies program at the Cal Arts. You must really value and enjoy the teaching process. From your experience how do you choose and approach passing on what's pertinent to the next generations of improvisers?

CH: I always told the people at Cal Arts that if they wanted me to do Jazz studies, first of all, there couldn't be a big band within 500 miles and that I could do what I wanted to do. And they said I could. And its all geared toward the spirituality of music and individual discovery. It's really about achieving in the other part of your life that (which) you achieve when you're playing.

AAJ: Do you find that students are surprised by that take on things? Does it take them awhile to come to that understanding?

CH: Yeah, it does. They're surprised but they're rewarded because they learn another completely different perspective of creativity.

AAJ: I certainly didn't hear that kind of thing when I was a Berklee.

CH: I don't think you ever will.

AAJ: I think so, too, and I'm sure they appreciate it. So is that an ongoing thing?

CH: Oh yeah, I've been there for 20 years and I'm going to keep doing it. I only have time for one class a week now and I have private students there.

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