OBIT: Charlie Haden

I’ve seen Charlie Haden play many times in the last 20 years or so. In 2005 he reconvened the Liberation Music Orchestra to protest the War in Iraq, and I saw them in an explosive show in the Village.

A year or two later his family, musicians all, including his daughter Petra, who we’ve featured here a couple of times, put together a country band in honor of the Haden Family Band that toured the country when Charlie was a boy. I saw them at an outdoor festival near Lincoln Center. And some time earlier I saw an amazing show with Haden and Thad Jones at Iridium, when that club was in that fantastic space across the street from Lincoln Center.

In between I fell deeply in love with a gentle album of Latin American melodies and tunes performed with the great Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, though I never got the chance to see the two of them perform.

A few weeks ago I posted Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman here. Charlie Haden played bass on that classic, and much of the early Ornette stuff. His straightforward melodic bass lines were the spine that held together Ornette’s and Don Cherry’s raucous soloing in those free jazz days.

One of my favorite Haden stories in his obit in the Times today involved a show he was performing in Lisbon with Coleman in the early 70s, during which he dedicated Song for Che to the black resistance fighters in Mozambique and Angola, Portuguese colonies. He was promptly put in jail.

A detail I didn’t know about Haden’s life. He played only country music until he was 21, when he saw a Charlie Parker show in Omaha. He was inspired, started to play jazz and moved to LA, where he met and played with Hampton Hawes and Paul Bley and eventually hooked up with Coleman.

This tune is from a 1989 show with the great drummer Paul Motian and the pianist Rubalcaba. It combines the lyricism with the wildness the was a part of Haden’s whole package.

And here’s some Liberation Music Orchestra.

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