Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Charlie Haden began his life in music almost immediately, singing on his parents’ country & western radio show at the tender age of 22 months. He started playing bass in his early teens and in 1957, left America’s heartland for Los Angeles, where he met and played with such legends as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon.
In 1959, Haden teamed up with Ornette Coleman to form the saxophonist’s pioneering quartet (alongside trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins). In addition to his still-influential work with Coleman, Haden also collaborated with a number of adventurous jazz giants, including John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Keith Jarrett, and Pat Metheny.
In 1969, Haden joined forces with pianist/composer Carla Bley, founding the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group’s self-titled debut is a true milestone of modern music, blending experimental big band jazz with the folk songs of the Spanish Civil War to create a powerfully original work of musical/political activism. After 2 further recordings he reconvened the Liberation Music Orchestra in 2005, with largely new members, for the album ‘Not In Our Name’. This recording dealt primarily with the contemporary political situation in the United States.
An acoustic bassist of extraordinary gifts, Haden’s talents as a musician have been in constant demand by his fellow artists. As a result, he has collaborated with a genuinely stunning array of musicians, including Hank Jones, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Kenny Barron, and Pat Metheny (with whom Haden shared a 1997 “Best Jazz Instrumental Individual/Small Group” Grammy® Award for their ‘Beyond the Missouri Sky’ album) .
Haden’s love of world music has also seen him teaming with a variety of diverse international players, including Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti, Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, and Portuguese guitar giant Carlos Paredes. In addition, Haden has explored diverse streams of American popular music with both his acclaimed Quartet West, as well as on such collections as 2002’s inventive alliance with Michael Brecker, “American Dreams.”
Charlie Haden who was invited to establish the jazz studies program at California Institute of the Arts in 1982, has earned countless honours from around the globe, including the Los Angeles Jazz Society prize for “Jazz Educator of the Year”, three Grammy Awards (alongside a multitude of nominations), myriad Down Beat readers and critics poll winners, a Guggenheim fellowship, four NEA grants for composition, France’s Grand Prix Du Disque Award, Japan’s SWING Journal Gold,
Silver and Bronze awards. As well as the Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award for a lifetime of contributing to improvised music.
The genesis of his 2008 release ‘Rambling Boy’ dates back more than two decades. In the late 1980’s Charlie and his wife Ruth Cameron packed up all the kids to see their Grandmother in Missouri to celebrate her 80th birthday. “Ruth got all of us to sing together and before you knew it, the kids were all singing harmony with my brothers and sisters and they all blended so well. It was just such a natural event and it felt so good and sounded so good that I knew in my heart that one day we’d all sing together.
Charlie Haden Family & Friends: Rambling Boy brings the artist’s personal history full circle and presents a new generation of the Haden Family – a legendary Midwest music institution in the 1930s and 1940s, now reborn in the 21st century.
2010 saw the release of the ECM recording ‘Jasmine’, Keith Jarrett's first recorded collaboration in decades other than with his standards trio, and reunites him with the great bassist Charlie Haden, a close partner until the mid-seventies. Intimate, spontaneous and warm, this album of love songs recorded at Jarrett's home, has affinities, in its unaffected directness, with many of the works of both artists.
Founded in the mid-Eighties by bassist Charlie Haden, Quartet West was and still is, undisputedly, one of the most elegant and coherent small-groups in contemporary jazz. Together with Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone, Alan Broadbent on piano and Larance Marable on drums, Haden resuscitated and modernized a typically Californian way of playing the "jazz game", one made of softness, sophistication and sensual clarity. The quartets six recordings — "Quartet West" (1987), "In Angel City" (1988), "Haunted Heart" (1992), "Always say Goodbye" (1994), "Now Is the Hour" (1996) and "The Art Of Song" (1999) —can all be read as autobiographical, melancholy plunges into the intimate recesses of the bassist's imagination: as many chapters of some dreamlike auto-fiction that multiplies the connexions and relations between Californian jazz of the immediate post-war period, and Hollywood during the same era, which was marked notably by the deadly sophistication of the great noir films. This is a sensual, nostalgic drift through the subconscious of one of the greatest musicians in contemporary jazz.
The new release by Quartet West ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ not only finds the group with a new drummer (Rodney Green), but as well in the company of some of the greatest female vocalists of our time – Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renee Fleming and Charlie’s wife, Ruth Cameron.
With a tour for the Quartet West being booked for late 2010 and early 2011 and further recordings already done and planned with various collaborators, the musical adventures of Charlie Haden are continuing …….