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Charlie Haden – We love you

Charlie Haden died today July 11, 2014, at 76 years.

It is a shock for many of us to learn that Charlie Haden is now dead.

Charlie Haden was a key part of my life.

Charlie Haden was a key player in several of the bands that for me, and many of my generation, represented the major innovations of modern jazz. He showed what jazz was, what jazz was going to be! Charlie Haden’s role in these bands of modern jazz were crucial.

For my generation, it should be quite obvious: We first recognized Haden’s collaboration with Ornette Coleman, during the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s. As part of these groups he shaped the new free jazz of the early 1960s, and with his playing, the role of the double-bass in modern jazz. Secondly we recognized him, together with Carla Bley, with his creation of the «Liberation Music Orchestra» in 1969. But there are so many more reasons to remember Charlie Haden.

For many of us, Charlie Haden was the «soundtrack of our life». Through it all, there was always this bass sound of a lyric directness. Charlie Haden’s bass playing provided a lyricism we immediately fell in love with. Charlie Haden showed from the very start, new ways of playing the bass. Though playing free, he never left the melodic framework. Just as Jimmy Blanton revolutionized swing bass playing during the 1940s, Charlie Haden turned free jazz bass playing upside down.

During the late 1960s, Charlie Haden was a key part of the transformation of jazz from being an (Afro-)American music to becoming a truly global genre of modern music. A key part in this transformation was his participation in the Keith Jarrett American Quartet, with Dewey Redman on saxophone, Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums. This American Quartet eventually opened up for Keith Jarrett’s Scandinavian Quartet, creating a framework for the innovative bass playing of Palle Danielsson.

In 1969 Haden founded the «Liberation Music Orchestra», a brew of radical politics and free ensemble playing, together with Carla Bley. Until the very last years of his life, the LMO provided Charlie Haden with a platform for expressing his radical political views. Though the big band had its original thematic allusion to the Spanish Civil War and the ’60s civil rights struggle, it took in its later versions a clear anti-Bush, and with that anti-Republican version.

With «Charlie Haden Quartet West», Haden opened up a new cinematic focus of his music. But even in this context, his melodic basis was still basically within the harmolodic world of Ornette Coleman.

Charlie Haden, my friend, may you rest in peace!

Text: Johan Hauknes