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Charlie Haden Remembers Tomorrow

Mike Brannon By

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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...
"As long as there are musicians who have a passion for spontaneity, for creating something that's never been before, the art form of jazz will flourish." —Charlie Haden

"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."—Charlie Haden (re: his Liberation Music Orchestra)

If lower Manhattan is the Ellis Island for jazz and creative improvised music, the heartland of America is from where it originates. Miles hailed from St. Louis, Wes from Indiana and both Haden's compatriot, Pat Metheny, and he call the land beneath Missouri's skies home; a place, as much a state of mind as a destination, from which, under the unlikeliest of circumstances, emerged this quiet icon, "a poet of the bass" and of American music: Charlie Haden.

Though personally stoic and taciturn, Haden speaks volumes with his presence, demeanor and sound. Immediately recognizable, you know who he is and what he's saying and that it all makes perfect sense. So logical, clear and obvious, yet event-horizon deep, he makes you think while you feel...things so apparent and true, leaving you wondering why you hadn't already thought or felt them yourself. Or maybe you had, but just hadn't realized it yet. It's as if it weren't music at all, but an experience, a memory, as vivid as the distant sounds and smells of summer nights at the coast, but with the darkness of reality...a reluctant acceptance of how things really are, at times, coupled with the hope of how they still can be and the choices we can make to that reality's end. That particular rhythm, that melodic line, that vibe. It's the pain and beauty of growth and of growing up, especially in this country. A longing for the way things were, (yet somehow from the perspective of the future's potential), and for the things this country was originally built upon...life, liberty and happiness' pursuit.

To this end, his latest offering is appropriately, American Dreams, which embodies far more than the standard sonic eloquence we're used to experiencing on a Haden led excursion. With its inherent grace, beauty and imagination, it's a testament to and a chronicle of both the artist's philosophies and the current state of American music: where its been, is and where its going, as well as, where it should be going. He is joined by Michael Brecker, Brad Mehldau, Brian Blade and 34 piece string orchestra, whom together weave an unforgettable tapestry evoking a world unto itself; timeless stories both real and imagined, hoped and dreamed. And so we do.

Among the many things we can thank Haden for, besides his original, heartfelt music, is his influence, early on, in integrating the bass beyond its traditional supporting role and allowing it a more fluid, responsive function. It's own value, vision and voice. A template for all that's come since and for how the jazz rhythm section is perceived and experienced to this moment.

But the story doesn't end there. Dreams are also pivotal aspects of what makes both this recording, this artist and this country itself, what they are. "One of the most important things in my life since I was a child has been the ability to dream," Haden explains. "l always dreamed of a world without cruelty and greed, of a humanity of the same brilliance as our solar system, of an America worthy of the dreams of Martin Luther King, and the majesty of the statue of Liberty." To this end, Haden has always been one of action far more than of words. For it's only in the doing, or lack there of, that we are truly who we are. To this end the past has shown him willing to sacrifice his own freedom in an effort to make his voice heard.

And though Haden is at the age where others might consider retirement, he remains one of the art form's busiest performers, now more than ever with 2 full tours for his separate projects already scheduled for '03, a Euro tour with Pat Metheny this Spring and dates with Jim Hall and Joshua and Dewey Redman, also slated for this year. That, plus more recording with various projects, including the follow-up to his Grammy-winning duo, "Beyond the Missouri Sky" with Pat Metheny, chairing Cal Arts' Jazz program (which he initiated), traveling as a clinician and writing.

Though his legacy speaks for itself, a brief list of Haden's shared stage and studio experience would soon fill pages with noteworthy names including: Coltrane, Coleman, Jarrett, Brecker, Hancock, Metheny, Ricki Lee Jones, Bruce Hornsby—all artists whom have requested his presence. A list as endless as it is varied, populated by like-minded souls seeking beauty and the not-so-abstract truth through their art, through music.

All About Jazz: 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?

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