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Charlie Haden

Charlie Haden is an NEA Jazz Master

“No other instrument in jazz is more essential than the bass, both backbone and heartbeat, and Haden is its master.” (Francis Davis /August, 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly)

Time Magazine has hailed jazz legend Charlie Haden as “one of the most restless, gifted, and intrepid players in all of jazz.” Haden's career which has spanned more than fifty years has encompassed such genres as free jazz, Portuguese fado and vintage country — the last of which is featured on his latest album, Rambling Boy — not to mention a consistently revolving roster of sidemen and bandleaders that reads like a list from some imaginary jazz hall of fame.

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa in August 1937, Charlie Haden began his life in music almost immediately, singing on his parents’ country & western radio show at the tender age of 22 months. He started playing bass in his early teens and in 1956 left America’s heartland for Los Angeles, where he met and played with such legends as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Dexter Gordon and Paul Bley.

In 1957, Haden met Ornette Coleman to form the saxophonist’s pioneering quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins. As an original member of this ground-breaking Ornette Coleman Quartet that turned the jazz world on its head , Haden...” revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing in jazz. His ability to create serendipitous harmonies by improvising melodic responses to Coleman’s fee-form solos (rather than sticking to predetermined harmonies) was both radical and mesmerizing. His virtuosity lies…in an incredible ability to make the double bass ‘sound out’ and Haden cultivates the instrument’s gravity as no one else in jazz. He is a master of simplicity which is one of the most difficult things to achieve.” (Author Joachim Berendt in The Jazz Book)

Haden played a vital role in this revolutionary new approach, evolving a way of playing that sometimes complemented the soloist and sometimes moved independently. In this respect, as did bassists Jimmy Blanton and Charles Mingus, Haden helped liberate the bassist from a strictly accompanying role to becoming a more direct participant in group improvisation.

In addition to his hugely influential work with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell and Dewey Redman, throughout the ‘60s, and 70’s, Haden subsequently collaborated with a number of adventurous jazz giants, including John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Chet Baker and Joe Henderson.

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Album Review

Alan Shorter: Mephistopholes To Orgasm Revisited

Read "Mephistopholes To Orgasm Revisited" reviewed by Chris May


It is often said of a musician, be they alive or no longer with us, that they deserve to be better known. This is emphatically true of the wayward trumpeter and composer Alan Shorter, who was overshadowed during his lifetime by his brother, Wayne Shorter, and who continues to be passed over today in 2024. Some responsibility for his obscurity lies with Alan Shorter himself. Known as Doc Strange to his teenage schoolmates in Newark, New Jersey, ...

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Ornette Coleman: Ornette At 12, Crisis To Man On The Moon, Revisited

Read "Ornette At 12, Crisis To Man On The Moon, Revisited" reviewed by John Eyles


The re-release albums on Ezz-thetics, by jazz legends from the 1940s, '50s and '60s, have been widely praised, particularly for their sound quality which is invariably much improved compared to the originals or later rereleases. Another impressive aspect of these re-releases is the behind-the-scenes detective work which has tracked down rarities by some iconic musicians. One notable example of this is the three previously unreleased live recordings by the Albert Ayler Quintet, from their autumn 1966 European tour, which appeared ...

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Archie Shepp: Fire Music To Mama Too Tight Revisited

Read "Fire Music To Mama Too Tight Revisited" reviewed by Chris May


In 2022, it is widely accepted that, when free jazz (aka the New Thing) was in its ascent in New York in the 1960s, there was, despite superficial appearances, no fundamental incompatibility between it and the historical jazz tradition. More contentiously, revisionist historians are now suggesting that there was no real conflict between New Thing and changes-based or modal-based musicians either. They should try telling that to Archie Shepp. In autumn 1966, during the Miles Davis quintet's ...

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Alice Coltrane: Live At The Berkeley Community Theater 1972

Read "Live At The Berkeley Community Theater 1972" reviewed by Chris May


Conventional belief holds that Alice Coltrane was the dreamy, mellifluous partner in John Coltrane's late period, out-there sonic explorations. The truth is otherwise, as attentive listening to the recordings the two Coltranes made together in 1966 and 1967 demonstrates. The misapprehension stems from the gentler albums Alice made for Impulse in the first few years following her husband's passing. A Monastic Trio (1968), Huntington Ashram Monastery (1969), Ptah, The El Daoud (1970), Journey In Satchidananda (1971) and World Galaxy (1972) ...

Album Review

Brad Mehldau / Charlie Haden: Long Ago and Far Away

Read "Long Ago and Far Away" reviewed by Luca Casarotti


Il 5 novembre 2007, il pianista Brad Mehldau e il contrabbassista Charlie Haden si esibiscono per la prima volta in duo alla Christuskirche di Mannheim, in Germania, in occasione dell'Enjoy Jazz Festival. A undici anni di distanza, la storica etichetta discografica Impulse! pubblica ora la registrazione di quel concerto, con il titolo Long Ago and Far Away. Dopo Alone Together (Blue Note 1997), An Other Shade of Blue (Blue Note 1999) e Live at Birdland (ECM 2011), ...

Book Review

Conversations with Charlie Haden

Read "Conversations with Charlie Haden" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi


Conversations with Charlie Haden Josef Woodard & Charlie Haden 235 Pagine con 24 foto in bianco e nero ISBN: #978-1-935247-15-9 Silman-James Press 2017 Pubblicato negli Stati Uniti all'inizio di quest'anno, Conversations with Charlie Haden raccoglie 17 interviste del critico Josef Woodard al grande contrabbassista scomparso; alcune sono state pubblicate in riviste statunitensi altre sono inedite. Le interviste sono collocate in ordine cronologico: iniziano il 28 aprile 1988 (quando Haden aveva 51 anni) ...

6
Album Review

Charlie Haden / Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life:Songs For The Whales And Other Beings

Read "Time/Life:Songs For The Whales And Other Beings" reviewed by Ian Patterson


Formed by bassist Charlie Haden in 1969 to protest America's war in Vietnam/Indochina, the Liberation Music Orchestra has reconvened roughly every ten years to record musical protest in the face of major injustices. Time/Life: Song for the Whales and Other Beings was inspired by concern at global ecological destruction, and to that end the music has a pervasive melancholy colored by the LMO's signature lyricism, and broken up by stirring collective and individual passages. The LMO's personnel has ...

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"No other instrument in jazz is more essential than the bass, both backbone and heartbeat, and Haden is its master.” (Francis Davis /August, 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly)

Charlie Haden is “one of the most restless, gifted, and intrepid players in all of jazz.” (Jay Cocks, Time Magazine)

Haden..." revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing in jazz. His ability to create serendipitous harmonies by improvising melodic responses to Coleman’s fee-form solos (rather than sticking to predetermined harmonies) was both radical and mesmerizing. His virtuosity lies…in an incredible ability to make the double bass ‘sound out’ and Haden cultivates the instrument’s gravity as no one else in jazz. He is a master of simplicity which is one of the most difficult things to achieve.” (Author Joachim Berendt in The Jazz Book)

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