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Penny Hadfield

Penny Hadfield

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One of the founding fathers of the free jazz movement, double bassist Charlie Haden helped to change the shape of the genre as both a sideman and a leader with a profoundly lyrical technique which helped to liberate the instrument from its traditional rhythm section role. Haden began his performing career as a singer with his family's country and western band before a bout with polio forced him to switch his focus to the double bass. Following a stint with pianist Paul Bley, Haden joined saxophonist Ornette Coleman's ground-breaking quartet, where his folk-influenced style and impressive improvisational skills challenged the era's bebop jazz establishment. Haden cemented his revolutionary reputation when he formed The Liberation Music Orchestra, a pioneering big band renowned for championing various political causes, in the late '60s, and later went onto form Old and New Dreams with several of his fellow Coleman sidemen, along with Quartet West, a modernist outfit inspired by the music of 1940s film noir. Haden remained just as prolific in the 21st century, and picked up Grammy Awards for both of his collaborative albums with Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. His children, including bassist Josh...

One of the founding fathers of the free jazz movement, double bassist Charlie Haden helped to change the shape of the genre as both a sideman and a leader with a profoundly lyrical technique which helped to liberate the instrument from its traditional rhythm section role. Haden began his performing career as a singer with his family's country and western band before a bout with polio forced him to switch his focus to the double bass. Following a stint with pianist Paul Bley, Haden joined saxophonist Ornette Coleman's ground-breaking quartet, where his folk-influenced style and impressive improvisational skills challenged the era's bebop jazz establishment. Haden cemented his revolutionary reputation when he formed The Liberation Music Orchestra, a pioneering big band renowned for championing various political causes, in the late '60s, and later went onto form Old and New Dreams with several of his fellow Coleman sidemen, along with Quartet West, a modernist outfit inspired by the music of 1940s film noir. Haden remained just as prolific in the 21st century, and picked up Grammy Awards for both of his collaborative albums with Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. His children, including bassist Josh Haden and singer/musicians Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden (who performed together as The Haden Triplets alongside their solo careers), continued their father's musical path. The onset of post-polio syndrome forced him to retire several years before his death in 2014, but by then his place in the pantheon of jazz greats had already well and truly been secured.

Born into a musically gifted family in Shenendoah, IA, in 1937, Haden first began performing at the tender age of two in their country and western act, The Haden Family Band. Haden continued to serve as a vocalist with the group at various county fairs, revival meetings and radio shows until he contracted polio aged fifteen, a disease which weakened the nerves in his face and throat and subsequently forced him to quit singing. Inspired by both Charlie Parker's Jazz at the Philharmonic and the classical bass of Bach's compositions, Haden then switched his attention to the double bass and soon landed a job as member of the house band on country music's first network TV show, "Ozark Jubilee" (ABC-TV 1954-1961). After moving to Los Angeles where he attended the Westlake College of Music, Haden played with pianists Elmo Hope and Hampton Hawes and saxophonist Art Pepper, and entered into the studio for the first time with Canadian modern jazz pianist Paul Bley.

Haden's big break arrived when he joined trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins in saxophonist Ornette Coleman's quartet, who went onto revolutionize the jazz world with their 1959 album The Shape Of Jazz To Come and a six-week residency at New York's Five Spot Café which is credited with inventing the free jazz movement. Haden's narcotics addiction resulted in his departure from the band in 1960, but after attending rehab, he resumed his career in 1964 by working with John Handy and Denny Zeitlin's trio, and as a freelancer for the likes of Henry "Red" Allen, Pee Wee Russell and Attila Zoller. Whilst serving as a member of Keith Jarrett's American Quartet, Haden also formed his own big band, The Liberation Music Orchestra, a "who's who" of jazz instrumentalists which tackled various political causes such as the Spanish Civil War on 1969's widely-celebrated eponymous debut, the United States' involvement in Latin America on 1982's The Ballad Of The Fallen and apartheid in South Africa on 1990's Dream Keeper.

Haden's political stance also got him into trouble in 1971 during a show with the Ornette Coleman Quartet when he was questioned by the FBI for dedicating "Song For Che" to the freedom fighters in several Portuguese colonies. In 1976, he teamed up with former bandmate Cherry, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell to form Old and New Dreams, a jazz quartet who released a string of albums which combined Coleman covers with original compositions. Haden also enjoyed long-running success as the leader of Quartet West, a bop-oriented outfit founded in 1987, whose work often incorporated the music of 1940s film noir. In 1989, Haden performed every night at the Montreal Jazz Festival, with the majority of his sets later released under The Montreal Tapes series, and went onto add the likes of Portuguese composer Carlos Peredes, jazz pianist Kenny Barron and US guitarist Pat Metheny to his extensive list of collaborators, winning his first ever Grammy Award with the latter for 1997's Beyond The Missouri Sky (Short Stories).

Remaining just as prolific in the 21st century, Haden added to his Grammy tally thanks to two collaborations with Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba (Nocturne, Land Of The Sun), and released joint efforts with Michael Brecker and John Taylor before reviving the Liberation Music Orchestra for 2005's Not In Our Name. After celebrating his 70th birthday by teaming up with Antonio Forcione on 2006's Heartplay, Haden headed into the studio with several members of his immediate family, including his daughter Tanya's husband, actor and singer Jack Black, to revisit his country roots on 2008's Rambling Boy. In 2010, Haden recruited singers Diana Krall, Melody Gardot and Norah Jones for Quartet West's comeback, Sophisticated Ladies, and recorded his final studio effort as a leader, a collection of spirituals and traditional songs with Hank Jones entitled Come Sunday. Suffering from the effects of post-polio syndrome, Haden was forced to retire from the music industry shortly after and died following complications with the illness in Los Angeles in 2014, aged 76.

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