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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Jul 14, 2014

Charlie Haden, one of the most influential and recorded bass players of the last seventy years, has died of a long illness related to post-polio degeneration. He was 76 years old.

Haden is unique among the stars of the rhythm section in that he could handle the most difficult avant-garde music, could swing with the best of the straight ahead players, and always brought to anything he played an American sensibility anchored in his youth in Iowa. A member of the Haden Family band who starred on Midwestern radio in the thirties and forties, he seemed destined to be a country music performer forever, until a chance encounter with the music of Charlie Parker in 1951. People ask me how I could go from country to jazz,” Mr. Haden said. “It’s been a natural convergence for me.”  

Haden was at the core of Ornette Coleman’s quartet (with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummers Billy Higgins, and then Ed Blackwell) in the late Fifties, creating the pulse that drove albums that sounded like none before them. It’s safe to say that Free Jazz and The Shape of Things To Come were among the most important recordings of their time, and Haden – a white man playing in an otherwise black band – stood out in more ways than one.

He helped create at least two other seminal avant-garde groups in the next twenty years – Keith Jarrett’s “American Quartet” with Dewey Redman on saxophone and Paul Motian on drums; and his own Liberation Music Orchestra, which released four politically charged albums featuring compositions and arrangements by the pianist Carla Bley, mingling wildness with the tradition of Latin American folk songs.

Haden was always in demand as a sideman, and recorded a number of duets and trio albums with the likes of Hank Jones, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jarrett, Pat Metheney (with whom he won his first Grammy), and Kenny Barron. Perhaps my favorite of all Haden’s work came with , Quartet West, a longtime band with the tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent and the drummer Larence Marable. Highly melodic, these albums reach back to the golden age of Hollywood for themes and style, creating an accessible and romantic sound.

Haden released a duet album with Keith Jarrett in June, and at least one posthumous album has already been scheduled: a concert recording made in 1990 with the guitarist Jim Hall, who ironically died just last year.

A founder of the CalArts Jazz program in 1982 Haden taught generations of musicians. He was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2012 and received a lifetime achievement honor at last year’s Grammy Awards, though his health prevented him from attending the ceremony.

Podcast 437 is a tribute to the wonderful music that Mr. Haden produced in his lifetime, including musical selections from the following albums:

Charlie Haden’s Quartet West - “First Song (for Ruth)” from In Angel City.

Charlie Haden, Jan Gabarek and Egberto Gismonti - “Ballerina” from Magico.

Charlie Haden with Old & News Dreams  - “Happy House” from A Tribute to Blackwell.

Charlie Haden’s Liberation Army Orchestra - “Rabo de Nube” from Dream Keeper.

Charlie Haden and Gonzao Rubalcaba -  “Noche de Ronda (Night of the Wandering)” from Nocturne.

Charlie Haden - “Turnaround” from The Golden Number

Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron “Waltz for Ruth” from Night and the City.

Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden - “Goodbye” from Jasmine.