Charlie Haden 1937-2014

by Paul Burmeister

Jazz music and American music will miss the contributions of Charlie Haden. "Haden is the ultimate timekeeper, bending and stretching the pulse like a true relativist, but never once forgetting his duties. This, coupled with a heartbeat tone, has placed him at the centre of literally hundreds of important sessions." (Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 1998) "By abandoning conventional bass positions and the usual ideas of harmonic bass lines, (Haden) has found for himself and his instrument the pitch in which a piece and the improvisors are playing, his bass forms a percussive-melodic part that participates much more directly in the music, rather than functioning as a contributing "accompaniment'." (Martin Williams, liner notes for The Shape of Jazz to Come, 1960)

Along with Richard Davis and Dave Holland, Haden is among my favorite bassists. I saw him live, and I like to think that the Midwest was always part of his music. In the jazz idiom I enjoy his early stuff with Ornette Coleman (and later with the group Old and New Dreams), his collaborations with fellow midwesterner Pat Metheny, and his standards group, Quartet West. Rejoicing, ECM 1983, is a particular favorite, and I recommend it often.