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Charlie Haden

Bassist Charlie Haden will always be associated with Ornette Coleman, but he has also had a long and significant solo career. Born in Shenandoah, Iowa in 1937, Haden was part of a family that often sang country music and folk songs on the radio and at shows together. He sang from the time he was two until he contracted a form of polio at 15 that damaged his vocal cords. A few years earlier, Haden had discovered jazz and began playing bass. He moved to Los Angeles in 1957 and immediately became part of the local scene, playing with Hampton Hawes, Elmo Hope, Art Pepper and, most significantly Coleman. Haden worked with Coleman and Don Cherry at the Hillcrest Club with pianist Paul Bley. One of the very few jazz bassists of the time whose playing was beyond chordal, Haden was the perfect musician to play bass with Coleman. He went to New York with Coleman and was on Ornette’s most significant albums. After leaving Coleman (there would be many reunions through the years), Haden worked with Denny Zeitlin, Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd. His Liberation Music Orchestra recorded a famous album in 1969, Song for Che. Haden was part of Old and New Dreams, an Ornette Coleman reunion band without Coleman that recorded several albums. He was a key member of the Keith Jarrett Quartet/Quintet during the first half of the 1970s, which matched him with Dewey Redman and Paul Motian. He led two albums of unusual duets, headed a new Liberation Music Orchestra in 1982 (and several times since, including in 2005), and became a very significant jazz educator at Cal Arts. During the past 20 years, his main group has been Quartet West, a nostalgic and thoughtful bop combo that also includes Ernie Watts, Alan Broadbent and Larance Marable. Charlie Haden has also had important collaborations with Hank Jones, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek and Egberto Gismonti, never losing his musical curiosity and desire to stretch himself.