Charlie Haden passed away this morning after a long battle with illness. He was 76.
Few musicians have had as large an impact on the way I view music as Charlie did. His work with Ornette Coleman was absolutely a revelation. Not even just the records they made together, but their immediate and visceral musical connection, improvising together in a way most musicians can only hope to experience in their life. Charlie helped prove that “free jazz” wasn’t the bullshit everyone joked about, it was an intelligent, compelling, and intricate communication amongst musicians that understood each other.
Ever the multi-faceted artist, he worked with everyone from John Coltrane to Keith Jarrett, Beck to Yoko Ono. Hell, he was even on a Robert Downey Jr. record. With Carla Bley, Charlie led the Liberation Music Orchestra, which was explicitly in response to a variety of political events and ideas from its initial incarnation in 1969, which focused on the Spanish Civil War, to its final form in 2005, which focused on the contemporary American political landscape.
In 2008, he released Rambling Boy, which hearkened back to the Americana roots of the Haden Family Band during his youth. Much of his immediate family performed on that record, including his four children, as well as a many of his close musical collaborators.
Charlie was a consummate artist, and his influence will be profound and lasting. He will be deeply missed.
This seems as good a time as ever to give Free Jazz another listen.
Take it easy.