This American double bass player helped to redefine his instrument's place in the jazz world. He played with the Ornette Coleman Quartet in the late 1950s, then won renown as part of pianist Keith Jarrett's first trio. A musician second to none, Haden is also known for his political and social involvement, which he brought to the fore with his Liberation Movement Orchestra. He is also one of a small group of musicians whose relationship with the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has become almost symbiotic.
Charles Edward Haden was born in Shenandoah, Iowa. Raised in a musical family, he was still in diapers when he took part in his first radio show, hosted by the Haden clan on a weekly basis.
After immersing himself in country and folk, Haden discovered jazz through one of his brothers. A self-taught musician, he learned to play the double bass before mastering the electric bass. By the age of 20, with a few professional gigs already under his belt, Haden left for Los Angeles to carve out a career.
Once he arrived in L.A., it didn't take long for him to meet and play with such high calibre musicians as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon. He first met Ornette Coleman in 1959, forming their famous quartet with Don Cherry on trumpet and Billy Higgins on drums, recording such classics as The Shape of Jazz to Come and Change of the Century.
It was at the end of the 1960s when Haden first crossed paths with composer and pianist Carla Bley-a fortunate encounter that led to the creation of the Liberation Music Orchestra. In 1969, they gave a concert, featuring Bley's arrangements and incorporating Spanish Civil War songs, protest chants, and rallying cries from the civil rights movement.
The same year, the LMO released their first album, a much celebrated eponymous effort. Over the years, the lineup of band members has evolved, depending on the musical imperatives and circumstances.
Deeply respected by his fellow musicians, Charlie Haden is highly sought after-not only for his fluid tone, but for his melodic lines that are solid yet eloquent. No one has contributed as much as he has to reinvent the role of the bass in the great years of bop. Not surprisingly, he is considered the living legend of acoustic bass by scores of experts-notably by the critics at Down Beat, the widely respected jazz magazine and music reference.
Haden here in Montreal
The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal first welcomed Charlie Haden to the stage in 1984, during a memorable concert with Pat Metheny and Billy Higgins, opening the door to many more in the years to come.
For the Festival's 10th edition, Charlie Haden inaugurated the Invitation series. For five evenings in a row, he was on stage at the Salle Marie-Gérin-Lajoie at UQAM, playing with different musicians each night. These reunions gave him a chance to showcase some highlights of the projects he has explored throughout his career. Every evening, audiences were taken on a diverse musical journey, with Haden firmly at the helm, leading the way.
In 1992, he returned to Montreal, laden with honours and accolades. The previous year, Down Beat readers crowned him with two illustrious and much coveted titles, bass player of the year and jazz album of the year for Dream Keeper, recorded with the Liberation Music Orchestra.
His streak continued the following year when, once more, Down Beat named him bassist of the year with his album, Haunted Heart, recorded with Quartet West, garnering honours and acclaim as well. Even TIME Magazine touted his work as the best music of 1992. Montreal music fans fortunate enough to catch Haden at the Festival that year got to hear material from the award-winning album and experience the Quartet West live in concert, with Ernie Watts on sax, Allan Broadbent on piano, and Larance Marable on drums.
Now a mainstay of the Festival, Charlie Haden returned to Montreal almost every year from 1990 to 2000, each time offering audiences something different, either trying out new pieces or reworking old material in innovative ways.
His 1997 tour gave rise to two memorable collaborations brought to the Salle Pierre-Mercure, an ideal venue for this kind of acoustic gathering. The first was a duet concert with his old friend Pat Metheny, presenting work from their album, Beyond the Missouri Sky. Haden's other performance featured a young pianist named Brad Mehldau, who would later move on to achieve incredible critical and popular success in his own right.
In 2000, Haden won the prestigious Miles Davis Prize in recognition of his musical contributions and accomplishments. In 2001 and 2002, he teamed up with Cuban piano virtuoso, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, coming back a couple years later, joined by saxophonist Michael Brecker and pianist Kenny Barron to perform work from the recording, American Dreams.
In 2004, for the 25th anniversary of the Festival, Haden hosted the Invitation series, which he'd inaugurated 15 years before. Presenting five concerts over five evenings, Haden revisited some of the most outstanding projects from his career, from the Liberation Music Orchestra to Quartet West.
In 2009, Haden accepted the Festival's invitation to come and present his album, Rambling Boy, offering audiences a chance to hear him reconnect with his country and folk roots.
The following year, he appeared on Jasmine, an album recorded in collaboration with pianist Keith Jarrett, and then released Sophisticated Ladies with the Quartet West and a host of guest vocalists including Cassandra Wilson, Melody Gardot and Diana Krall.
In early 2012, he released Come Sunday, a collaborative effort with the late Hank Snow recorded shortly before the pianist's passing.
This legendary double bass player passed away on July 11, 2014.