Very disappointed to find out that Charlie Haden, the bassist, died yesterday— he's been one of my musical heroes for a long time, since I heard him on Ornette Coleman's records, and saw him play with Joe Henderson at the John Coltrane Celebration in LA in 1988. He had the most driving groove I ever heard, as well as an unusual rhythmic sense, and very open way of phrasing. And, of course, a distinctive country/folky melodic sense which the marketing people latched onto in his later years.
But for at least the first 30 years of his career he was generally categorized as a free guy. I figured out partly from listening to him that avant-garde music needs a strong, grounded bassist at its center— he was one of the great examples of that.
I'm also sorry he's gone because he's one of the last examples of a musician who everyone agrees is great, who is also coming from a somewhat technically limited place— an irrefutable example of how you can be great without being technically mind-blowing.
Dave Liebman, on his Facebook page, gives a nice remembrance:
“PASSING - CHARLIE: From Blanton to Pettiford to (Ray) Brown, Charlie Haden was the next step along with Scott LeFaro in re-defining the role of the bass. "Time, no changes" was his world, but he could deal with harmony very easily. It was his linear, highly melodic and counterpoint phrasing that was uniquely Charlie that found its home with Ornette. We recorded "My Goals Beyond" with John McLaughlin in the early '70s and Charlie is also on my recording "Sweet Hands" a bit later. Charlie's solos were invariably plainly stated, apparently "simple," obviously melodic, but most of all played with a passionate feeling and deep tone. We talked a few times in the past years about post polio syndrome (which several well-known people have encountered), trying to find someone, somewhere, who could treat it, apparently to no avail. He went down as a warrior, just the way he played.”
Also read memorials at Variety, and Salon, and NPR.
A very soulful piece of playing from Don Cherry's Brown Rice:
More music, and listening suggestions after the break:
This tune contains a famous solo by Haden, which surfaces again on Two Folk Songs, on Pat Metheny's 80/81:
And Haden's tune Chairman Mao, which we also did as a Groove o' the Day some time ago:
Here's my list of essential recordings featuring Haden— a significant part of my list of essential recordings, period:
Ornette Coleman — Change of the Century
Ornette Coleman — This Is Our Music
Don Cherry — Brown Rice
Don Cherry — Art Deco
Old And New Dreams — Old And New Dreams (ECM)
Pat Metheny —Rejoicing
Pat Metheny — 80/81
Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny — Song X
Michael Brecker — Michael Brecker
John Scofield — Time On My Hands
Joshua Redman — Wish
Of course all of the Keith Jarrett records he played on are great, too.