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Charlie Haden R.I.P.

ghost of miles

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According to Tina Pelikan from ECM.

from Tina Pelikan, ECM Records Publicity:

It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Charlie Haden, born August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, passed away today at 10:11 Pacific time in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side.

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Even though I haven't posted in a while, I lurk almost daily, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't live in fear of seeing posts like this.

This one really hurts, in no small part because Haden was sort of my introduction to jazz bass and the barometer by which I'd come to measure all who play the instrument. The first jazz album I ever purchased--at age 12--was The Shape of Jazz to Come--and even then, back in the now incomprehensible interval when Don Cherry's playing was so weird and alien to me, something about Charlie's bass playing resonated with me.

I feel that, as both a free improviser and a contemporary jazz musician, the paths and methodologies of "successful" ensemble playing are sometimes vague, but Charlie (with Ornette, of course) found a way that was both innovative and profoundly grounded in tradition. It's spectacular listening to something further along the line--like Science Fiction or Rhythm X--and coming to grips with the fact that the seemingly unconventional character of Charlie's playing--metrically mobile, often counter to the pulse and harmonically fluid--so totally occupies the role of the bass.

Emerging in a period when so many players seemed preoccupied with bringing the "new music" to the bass--and this is no slight on other greats like Peacock, Grimes, and LaFaro, for three--Haden always struck me as an anachronism, bringing the bass to the music. As early work with Ornette bore out, showcasing both his uncanny ear for spontaneously shifting harmonies and his tremendously soulful sense of swing (a perfect complement to the endlessly funky, but also often ballistic, drumming of Higgins and Blackwell), Haden always had an ear for the role of the bass as a support instrument--even (especially?) in a less stable ensemble environment.

I think that Haden remains eminently listenable and influential for the fact that the core of his playing is so simple, so completely focused on compatibility, development, and contrast. Even on something like Gato Barbieri's The Third World--which is almost unrelentingly dense, shrill, and melodramatic--Haden is the model of stability, the pivot around which the whirlwind rages. Maybe the biggest compliment I can render (as both a musician and a totally indebted fan) is that Haden lent a sense of logic and cohesion to even the most ridiculous musical scenarios.

I was just headed out on tour, driving the stretch of freeway from San Francisco to Los Angeles--we spent a big part of the drive, including an interminable single lane crawl through a seemingly infinite construction zone--listening to Ballad of the Fallen. We weren't aware that anything had happened or would happen to Charlie. We've been preparing "Song for Che" for the tour, and we play "Guinea" at virtually every concert--we even crib Haden's characteristic chromatic bassline for the principal melody. This is the definition of a hero for me--someone whose presence so defines my own activities that, while I have to imagine a world without him, I couldn't conceive of a world he didn't fundamentally, irrevocably change.

Thanks for the music, Charlie. A luta continua.

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Listening to Muddy at the moment, and it strikes me that Charlie could've done very well playing with him or someone like John Lee Hooker who made chord changes when and if they felt like it, not just 'cause he seemed to have esp that way but 'cause never overplayed and always supported what the others were doing, even while going his own way. A big loss, to say the least.

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One of the very first jazz records I heard was an Atlantic 45 of "Una Muy Bonita". Instant imprinting occurred., in, literally 10 seconds, less than 10 seconds, to be honest, more like 4 seconds.

Yes, it's a loss, but not really. As testified to in this thread, the guy changed so many of us in ways that are irrevocable. Such a thing is never really lost as much as it is transferred.

So RIP, Charlie Haden. You have not been lost, you have merely been transferred from the finite. Thanks, love, and won't forget, can't forget.

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There's a DownBeat interview from 2008 that's been floating around my apt the last few weeks, I've been reading it here and there, two or three times.

So this is shock, I know he hasn't been in good health the last few years. I expected him to be around a while, even if he wasn't playing much anymore.


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