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Charlie Haden, Legendary Jazz Bassist, Dies at 76

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Charlie Haden Charlie Haden, the pioneering jazz bassist who played with the likes of Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
and Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
before enjoying a decades-long solo career, died Friday at age 76 of a prolonged illness, according to his label, ECM.

Praised by critic Martin Williams for his “almost lyric directness,” Haden achieved fame in the late ’50s as a member of saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking free jazz quartet. He would later be a key member of another celebrated ensemble, pianist Keith Jarrett’s mid-’70s unit.

In 1969, Haden founded the politically charged Liberation Music Orchestra, a brew of radical politics and free ensemble playing, with pianist-composer Carla Bley
Carla Bley
Carla Bley
b.1938
piano
. During the ’70s and ’80s, he recorded with Old and New Dreams, a cooperative quartet featuring other members of Coleman’s pathfinding ensembles.

In 1987, Haden formed his long-running group Quartet West, which achieved commercial and critical success with its highly cinematic repertoire.

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Haden was reared in a musical family. Making his professional bow at the prodigious age of 22 months, he sang with his parents and older brothers and sister in country unit the Haden Family, which appeared on national radio.

A bout with polio at 15 damaged nerves in Haden’s vocal cords and ended his singing career, but he continued to play the bass. He gravitated to jazz after hearing Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
on a radio broadcast by Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic. As a sideman on Springfield, Mo.’s network TV show “The Ozark Jubilee,” he jammed with the jazz-oriented country guitarists Hank Garland
Hank Garland
Hank Garland
1930 - 2004
guitar
and Grady Martin.


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