“No one wants to be remembered most for what they did at 22.” But if at that tender age you get the chance to change musical history with the Ornette Coleman Band, take it. Charlie Haden, who died this week at 76, did. Here’s David A. Graham on one of jazz’s most deeply musical and melodic bass players:
His playing isn’t elaborately virtuosic, in the style of a Paul Chambers; and it isn’t irresistibly swinging, like Ray Brown. Like a country or blues bassist, Haden often stayed close to the root note of each chord. In Coleman’s band, for example, there was no piano player—just the leader’s saxophone, Don Cherry’s trumpet, Billy Higgins’s drums, and Haden’s bass. Without the crutch of a keyboard, Haden anchors the band.
Listen to him do this on Coleman’s cacophonous but melodic “Lonely Woman.”, an immensely influential piece and one of the era’s most haunting. And, later, the resonance of his exquisite work with guitarist Antonio Forcione, one of several duet albums he did late in his long career in which he played with unparalleled intimacy. Read the Graham tribute. (Johnny Cash shows up late.) The Times obit is also good.
And here he is with his Quartet West:
Ed note: This goodbye to Haden is also included as one of the three reading snippets in today’s edition of my new, more-or-less-daily email newsletter, Read Two of These and Call Me in the Morning — 2 or 3 short snips-and-links from my recent reading. You can subscribe here.