Charles Edward “Charlie” Haden, the great bassist, bandleader, compose and educator, died in Los Angeles on July 11 at the age of 76. He passed peacefully in the presence of Cameron, his wife of 30 years, his son Josh and his triplet daughters Petra, Rachel and Tanya.
Charlie Haden, who began singing before the age of 2 on the Haden Family’s country & western radio program, rose to prominence in the jazz world in the late 1950s as a member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet (with whom he’d record the groundbreaking 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come). He would spend the next five decades of his professional career pushing at the boundaries of jazz, founding along the way the Liberation Music Orchestra and the Charlie Haden Quartet West. His musical partnerships were wide-ranging and included collaborative work with John and Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, Hank Jones, Keith Jarrett, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Archie Shepp, Paul Motian, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny and many others.
Haden received many awards and honors through the years, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, recognition as an NEA Jazz Master (in 2012), three Grammys (in addition to the lifetime achievement Grammy he received in 2013) and four NEA grants for composition.
Haden, who was born on August 6, 1937, in Shenandoah, Iowa, will be long remembered as a class act and a great innovator who was among the first to explore the bass’s possibilities as a frontline melodic instrument.
Photo credit: Steven Perilloux