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Charlie Haden Dead at 76

Legendary bassist dies in Los Angeles

Charlie Haden
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden's Quartet West
Brad Melhdau, Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian

One of the most versatile and influential bassists in jazz history, Charlie Haden, died at age 76 yesterday, July 11, in Los Angeles. Post-polio syndrome, an illness that affects the nervous system of polio survivors, of which Haden was one, was the cause.

Although he is remembered more than anything for his work with, first, Ornette Coleman and, later, Keith Jarrett, Haden, over a period of some six decades, contributed vastly to the language of jazz bass. His tone was both warm and subtle and, at times, ferocious and tough-never predictable, always absorbing. His playing, regardless of the setting, was imbued with an unceasing curiosity and daring. Haden was a pioneer of free jazz but also professed a deep love for simple roots and folk music-both American and that of other cultures. With his own Liberation Music Orchestra he created a crossroads where the late jazz ensemble met leftist radical politics and experimentalism. Yet his music was, even at its most avant-garde, somehow accessible-one of his final releases, 2012’s Come Sunday, was a series of folk- and spiritual-themed duets with the late pianist Hank Jones. His current pairing with Jarrett, Last Dance, is another duo recording (following 2010’s Jasmine) that displays Haden’s ability to move beyond a root melody and basic harmony and open wide any music that he touched, remaining lyrical even while anchoring it solidly.

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