Monday, August 04, 2014

A belated, short Charlie Haden tribute

 Late in the evening on July 11, while vacationing on the western coast of Norway, I logged on to the web via my cell phone for one of the two daily web news updates I hade allowed myself. It didn't take many page views before I read that Charlie Haden had died. Suffice to say, I was deeply saddened. Few pieces of music has moved, shaped and formed me as much as the music Haden made with Ornette Coleman's early quartet, and although I wasn't as enthusiastiv about many of his later collaborations, almost everything he did seemed heartfelt and genuine, and his playing was always a joy to hear. I was lucky enough to see Haden with Coleman and drummer Billy Higgins at Battery park during a day of celebration of Ornette's muci in Battery Park, Manhattan, May 1st 2000.

I was contacted late that July night by Norwegian daily Dagbladet, asking for a comment on Haden and his music. Here's a translated (and slightly edited) version of what I wrote:

- [Charlie Haden] was a giant, a brilliant and distinctive musician, and from what I've heard by people who have been lucky enough to have met him, a humble and extremely friendly man.

- As a leading member of Ornette Coleman's quartet in the late 50s and early 60s, he was deeply involved in the development of jazz as an expression. Given Coleman's democratic principle that encouraged and allowed his fellow musicians to be more involved and gave them inceased musical freedom, Haden became more than just a sideman in the quartet, writes Monsen.

- His powerful yet warm bass tone was as often in the foreground as it was the music's heart and driving force, simultanously liberal and open, deep and vibrant.

- He was both frenetically energetic and thoughtfully lyrical, politically radical and heartbreakingly sensitive. His influence on modern jazz bassists is evident, both in terms of playing style and in the open minded approach to music. He also inspired punk and rock musicians (eg. Minutemen), and maintained a close relationship with the country & bluegrass music of his childhood.


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