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Charlie Haden: It's A Matter Of Values
For bassist Charlie Haden,making great music is about listening hard to your inner muse,exposing yourself to risk, and always striving for pure emotional expression.Haden has built a remarkable career as an artist who has used music to teach humility, the type of humility that allows you to discover your soul.
In fact, he startles his students in his bass master classes at Cal Arts by not even bringing his bass to the class ,but instead talking about the music ; the importance of discovering soul by striving to be a great human being. His focus is on the phenomenon of sound at low volumes to get a sense of dynamics and the spiritual connection to the creative process.
He challenges people to “risk your life for every note”, to play each note as if it’s your last and to develop an appreciation for the importance of music in our daily lives.
Mr Haden , who grew up in Springfield MO., began his spiritual quest as a teenager in the late fifties, when he plunged headlong into the burgeoning Los Angeles jazz scene.Gigging with some of the great players like pianist Paul Bley and the late Scott Lafaro, Haden soon encountered Ornette Coleman and became perfectly suited to Colemans radical ideas about improvisation, in forging a revolution in the way jazz was written and played.
Technically not a virtuoso, Hadens recorded output engages the listener with some of the purest emotional expression you will ever hear , on any instrument. Taken as a collective whole, his work is as timeless as that of Coltrane, Ellington ,Parker, Mingus, et al. And he has explored a wide range of styles including traditional and avant garde jazz, rock, gospel, blues, and world. Lets take a look at the many sides of Charlie Haden.These recordings have earned Haden Downbeat’s “Accoustic Bassist of the Year” for the past 15 years.
Ornette Coleman This is our Music(Atlantic)
Coleman, one of the most influential of the modern jazz greats,startled listeners by not playing in the traditional pattern of songs,but instead, collectively improvising and creating all new chord structures”.This is our Music,” recorded in 1961,revealed the full extent of that revolution, and propelled Haden on his journey.Coleman’s stunning legacy is best heard on the six-cd box set “Beauty is a Rare Thing”
Liberation Music Orchestra(Impulse)
One of Hadens most cherished endeavers, the first Liberation Music Orchestra album is sort of a repertory company of free thinking players,featuring the innovative arrangements of Carla Bley and masters of creativity such as the late cornet/ trumpet player Don Cherry, percussionest Paul Motian and trombonist Roswell Rudd. The album was influenced by the peoples struggle for freedom as expressed in the songs that were born of the spanish civil war in 1936 and 1937. The LMO recorded two other brilliant albums including “Ballad of the Fallen”(ECM 1984), and ‘Dream Keeper”(Blue Note 1991).Musician magazine has described “Dream Keeper”as a “magnificent marriage of folk,classical and jazz musics with spiritual ideals”.
Keith Jarrett; Survivor’s Suite(ECM)
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Haden was a member of pianist Keith Jarrett’s highly regarded quartet, which also included saxophonist Dewey Redman and drummer Paul Motian.The band recorded many brilliant albums for Atlantic and Impulse including “Death and the Flower “ “Fort Yawuh” and “Silence”. Haden thinks that “Survivor’s Suite” is more representative of the group’s actual sound because the mix is natural and not as “electric” as those earlier recordings.
Quartet West, Haden’s traditional”straight ahead’band was formed at the suggestion of Charlies wife Ruth so that he could spend time in L.A. and be near his kids. The hard swinging ensemble features the excellent saxophonist Ernie Watts, and the brilliant pianist/arranger Alan Broadbent.At the core of Hadens career since 1986, the groups five albums are best typlified by the 1994 release “Always Say Goodbye”which was also named Downbeats album of the year in both the critics and readers polls.Like other Quartet West recordings, the album begins and ends with film dialogue(The Big Sleep).These records as Vintage Vinyls Lew Prince might say ,are best heard late at night with someone you love and your favorite libation close by.
Charlie Haden/ Hank Jones, Steal Away(Verve)
Charlie Haden/ Hampton Hawes, As Long as There’s Music(Verve)
Charlie Haden/ Pat Metheny Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve)
“Steal Away” is a unique collection of serene spirituals ,hymns, and folk songs performed with reverence by Haden and the great pianist, Hank Jones.Simply put it is sacred music of the highest order.Time Magazine has described the music as “ a little private meditation,set deep in the spirit,then drawn out into a jazz pilgrimage’.
“As Long as there’s Music”,is Hadens beautiful duet album with the sadly forgotten pianist, the late Hampton Hawes, who died of a cerebal hemorrage shortly after this recording was made in 1976. Hawes was a soulmate of Hadens in that he was totally dedicated to constantly exploring the creativity within.Hawe’s autobiography, “Raise up off of Me’”provides a compelling portrait of his life,his struggles,and his creative drive.
“Beyond the Missouri Sky,” Hadens newest recording, is an eclectic series of duets with soulmate,guitarist Pat Metheny.Together, they cover a wide range of styles from the pristine pop of Jimmy Webbs lush “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, to “Spiritual” written by Hadens son Josh for his band Spain.
James Cotton; Deep in the Blues(Verve)
Haden’s playing is rooted in the blues and this album features Chess harmonica great, James Cotton, and the young guitar sensation Joe Louis Walker in an acoustic setting.The opening track, the haunting “Down at Your Buryin’typlifies the frightening and mysterious images of the blues Cotton ,Haden,and Walker bring to life here.
Ginger Baker Trio
Going Back Home and Falling Off the Roof( Atlantic)
Imagine Cream with the spacey guitar stylings of Bill Frisell replacing the blues of Eric Clapton , combined with the rhythmic propulsions of the great Ginger Baker, to create a totally captivating modern trio sound.The New Yorker describes Baker as “a musical drummer whose sense of swing combines primal directness with gambols of dazzling polyrhythmic complexity. Haden as usual provides great empathetic support.
Charlie is currently recording an album with vocalist Helen Merrill, and a duo album with the great sax player, Lee Konitz. He is also performing a series of concerts with The Liberation Music Orchestra which promises to be a musical highlight of the summer.
Charlie Haden has been described by many as the passionate, romantic poet of the bass.He has described making music as “spreading creative values; its like wanting to bring some depth back into the world”. His recordings are uniformly brilliant ,and his dedication for making each moment in life count,will undoubtedly secure his legacy as a great human being.