Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie Haden

Haden @ Jazz Middelheim August 2009
photo by Guy Van de Poel
The web is alive with tributes to Charlie Haden and I felt it was necessary to add my two cents. I spent some time on Friday afternoon listening to some selections from the post-Ornette quartet "Old and New Dreams" and Etudes (trio with Geri Allen & Paul Motian), Memoirs (trio Paul Bley & Paul Motian). He has plenty of room to shine on Soapsuds, Soapsuds, a duo with Ornette Coleman.

Improvisers (on any instrument) can learn so much from his melodicism and economy. The later being a rare quality (we all tend to over-play) and is something I am becoming increasing interested in. The man could say a lot with a little and his music came from a deep place. One of my favourites.

I first heard Haden during my mid-late teens on Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come. At the time my ears were drawn to Ornette's playing and it wasn't until years later that I started coming to grips with the importance of Haden in this music. It’s an album that I’ll write about separately at a later date.

He was brought to my attention again a couple of years later on Lee KonitzAlone Together (Blue Note). This album got some serious airplay in 1999-2001. I was transcribing Lee’s solo on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and my saxophone teacher challenged me, saying something along the lines of, “Why? What are you going to learn from that?” – I didn’t know what to say! Haden’s backing of Konitz (and Brad Mehldau) is superb – not a wasted note on the entire album. The same can be said for his solos to. I heard a Konitz/Haden duo set was recorded but I have never managed to track it down (I found a pic of the album cover somewhere online years ago). If anybody out there can direct me to it I’d be extremely grateful.

I only heard Haden in person once – a duo with Paul Bley at the Blue Note in NYC in 2009. I could only afford to sit at the bar, where they crammed us in like sardines. It was a pretty disappointing listening experience and put me off going to the Blue Note again (it was my first time there). I spent the evening squeezed in the corner unable to see the bandstand and having to put plenty of chatter around me. However, I had no complaints about the music.

Here are links to just a few of the many tributes: Nate Chinen at the New York Times, the Free Jazz Collective BlogNPR Remembering Charlie Haden.

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