Charles Edward Haden (born August 6, 1937) is a jazz double bassist, probably best known for his long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Haden is also known for his signature lyrical bass lines and is one of the most respected jazz bassists and jazz composers today.
Haden moved to Los Angeles in 1957, and quickly began playing professionally, including stints with pianist Hampton Hawes and saxophonist Art Pepper. He began playing with Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s, culminating with The Shape of Jazz to Come. This album was released to much controversy at the time, and Haden himself remarked that the harmolodic style of playing was so confusing to him at first that he resigned himself to repeating Coleman's lines on the bass. It was only later that he had enough confidence to start playing his own lines during the performances.
Besides his association with Ornette Coleman, Haden was also a member of Keith Jarrett's trio and "American quartet" from 1967 to 1976 with Paul Motian and Dewey Redman. He played in the collective Old and New Dreams.
He went on to lead the Liberation Music Orchestra in the 1970s. Largely arranged by Carla Bley, their music was very experimental, exploring the realms of free jazz and political music at the same time; the first album focused specifically on the Spanish Civil War. The LMO has had a shifting membership comprising a "who's who" of jazz instrumentalists. Through Bley's arranging, they have concentrated on a wide palette of brass instruments, including tuba, French horn, and trombone, in addition to the more standard trumpet and reed section. The LMO's 1982 album "The Ballad of the Fallen" commented again on the Spanish Civil War as well as the political instability and US involvement in Latin America. In 1990, the orchestra returned with "Dream Keeper," a more heterogeneous album which drew on American gospel music and South African music to comment on politics in Latin America and apartheid in South Africa. The album featured choral contributions from the Oakland Youth Chorus.
In 1971, while on tour in Portugal, Haden decided to dedicate a performance of his "Song for Che" to the anticolonialist revolutionaries in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau. The following day, he was detained at the Lisbon airport, jailed, and interrogated by the DGS (the Portuguese secret police). He was promptly released the same day after the intervention of the American cultural attaché, though he was later interviewed by the FBI in the United States about his choice of dedication.
Thematic exploration of genres not typically considered to be jazz standards became one of the signature approaches of the Charlie Haden Quartet West. Started in 1987, the Quartet consists of Ernie Watts on sax, Alan Broadbent on piano, and Larance Marable on drums. Quartet West's albums feature lush, romantic arrangements by Broadbent, often with strings, of music from the 1930s and 1940s, often music associated with films of that period.
Haden has also been active over the years working in duets with pianists such as Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, and Denny Zeitlin. He has explored spiritual hymns with Jones, American folk music in American Hymns, and Cuban folk music in Nocturne.
In 1989, Haden was featured at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and performed in concert every night of the festival, with different combos and bands. Each of these events was recorded, and most have been released in the series "The Montreal Tapes."
In late 1996, he collaborated with Pat Metheny on the album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories), exploring the music that influenced them in their childhood experiences in Missouri with what they call "contemporary impressionistic americana."
Haden reconvened Liberation Music Orchestra in 2005, with largely new members, for the album Not In Our Name, released on Verve Records. The album dealt primarily with the contemporary political situation in the United States.
In 2007, the feature length documentary Charlie Haden was released.
Haden's most recent release, Ramblin' Boy, features several members of his immediate family, along with Bela Fleck, Pat Metheny, Elvis Costello, and others. The album, released on 23 September 2008, harkens back to his days of playing Americana and bluegrass music with his parents on their radio show. A concert tour with Quartet West (with a new drummer) is also scheduled for the late summer.