Charlie Haden was an American jazz double bass player and a composer who left his mark on the history of the genre thanks to his lasting collaboration with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, with pianist Keith Jarret and his band Liberation Music Orchestra that he co-founded with pianist Carla Bley.
Charlie Haden started his music career as a member of the band The Haden Family Band. He had been singing with them country music since he was two years old – including on shows of the local radio. During his teenage years, Charlie Haden took interest in jazz and classical music and discovered the double bass. At the age of twenty, he moved to Los Angeles where he work and did recordings with Paul Bley, Art Pepper or Hampton Hawes. During that period, he was introduced to microtonal jazz, tainted with Ornette Coleman’s blues, nourishing it with his American folk music roots. They worked together within the Coleman Quartet and Haden would come back to it at many occasions during his career. He played with all the major musicians that evolved around Coleman during the 1970’s.
In 1967, Charlie Haden joined Keith Jarret’s trio and his American Quartet. He also performed with Paul Motian and Dewey Redman and founded three years later his own band, the Liberation Music Orchestra, with pianist Carla Bley. Their music, much experimental and inspired by free jazz, was also very engaged. His stances caused him at many occasions troubles with the authorities, in the US and abroad.
With his formation Quartet West, Charlie Haden turns to exploring the genres that are not automatically connected with jazz. The band stayed active for more than twenty years and worked on projects revolving around pop music and music soundtracks, among others. Many of his collaborations with jazzmen of the free jazz scene lasted for years.
Charlie Haden also worked with rock and pop figures, such as Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Rickie Lee Jones and Beck. The duo album Beyond the Missouri Sky he did with Pat Metheny reached the top of the charts and received a Grammy Award in 1997.
Besides his career as a musician, Charlie Haden was very active in teaching. He was for example the initiator of a jazz curriculum within the California Institute of Arts.
Six key recordings by Charlie Haden
• Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (with Ornette Coleman, 1961)
• Birth (avewithc Keith Jarrett, 1971)
• Escalator Over The Hill (with Carla Bley, 1971)
• 80/81 (with Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman, 1979)
• Time Remembers One Time Once (with Denny Zeitlin, 1981)
• Rejoicing (with Pat Metheny and Billy Higgins, 1984)