Jazz Bassist Extraordinaire Charlie Haden Dies At 76 (Updated)

Friday, 11 July 2014 06:30 PM Written by 

Bassist-composer Charlie Haden, a three-time Grammy winner known for his distinctive work as a sideman and bandleader, died Friday morning in LA at age 76. He'd been ill for some time, and his wife and four children were with him at the end.   According to the Associated Press, Haden suffered from post-polio syndrome that forced him to curtail his performing and recording.

Known for his work with Ornette Coleman, particularly the 1959 album The Shape Of Jazz To Come, The Shennandoah, Iowa native, born there in 1937, was a toddler when he started singing with the Haden Family, a country act popular on local radio. Later, he began playing bass and become one of many jazz greats who began in the country field, along with drummer Joe Morello and guitarists Hank Garland, Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe, Jimmy Wyble and Lenny Breau. 

When Haden moved to LA at age 20, he wound up in the middle of the West Coast cool jazz scene, built around clubs like the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, where Art Pepper, Chet Baker, Hampton Hawes, Howard Rumsey, Claude Williamson and Gerry Mulligan held sway.

As a bassist, he added more melodic overtones to the instrument, advancing it as Scott LaFaro and Jimmy Blanton had done before him. His work with Coleman set him apart, followed by his 1969 collaboration with Carla Bley with the social-protest oriented Liberation Music Orchestra album. of World Music was always a part of his palette. Haden, however, could not be easily categorized. He worked with a variety of avant-garde and mainstream jazz artists, from Alice Coltrane to Hank Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Ginger Baker, Bill Frisell, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. He offered a more accessible form of jazz in the 1980s with Quartet West, who created jazz inspired by classic pop music and the moody soundtracks of Film Noir.  Haden's final album with Jarrett, Last Chance, from material recorded in 2007, was just released.  This is the AP's review.

A few examples.

1976 "O.C" with Ornette Coleman.

1996: The gospel tune "Wade In The Water" with pianist Hank Jones. This was from their Grammy-winning spiritual album Steal Away.

2003: "The Precious Jewel" with Pat Metheny. The opening melody resembles "Chariots of Fire," but it's not. "Precious Jewel" was a 1940 ballad immortalized by Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff, the onetime King of Country Music.  This is the music Haden grew up hearing and singing in Iowa.

2007: "First Song" With Quartet West. Alan Broadbent, piano; Lawrence Marable, Gary Foster, tenor sax.

2010: Promotional video for the Jasmine album with Keith Jarrett. Jarrett's comments are an effective musical eulogy for Haden.


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