Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HADEN, Charlie

(b 6 August 1937, Shenandoah IA; d 11 July 2014, Los Angeles CA) Bass, composer. He began as Cowboy Charlie at age two, on his parents' country music radio show, Uncle Carl Haden and the Haden Family. His father knew Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. 'It was country music for me all the way until I heard Bird,' Haden said later, referring to a Jazz At The Philharmonic concert in Omaha. He had polio at age 15, which affected the nerves in his face, putting an end to a singing career; to get the money to study music in Los Angeles he took a job as house bassist on The Ozark Jubilee, a TV barndance. Haden emerged as a modern player and composer with traditional strengths, playing with Art Pepper, Paul Bley and others, then on several albums with Ornette Coleman from 1959. The childhood harmonizing helped him to be able to follow Coleman's unique approach; on his second recording session with Coleman, on a tune called 'Ramblin' ', he wrapped up a bass solo with a snatch of 'Old Joe Clark'. He continued to work with Coleman while active with the Jazz Composers' Orchestra and activities as diverse as College Concert on Impulse with traditionalists Red Allen and Pee Wee Russell.

His film work included Last Tango In Paris '72 with Gato Barbieri. He recorded with with Don Cherry, Carla Bley (Escalator Over The Hill) and many others, and with Cherry, Ed Blackwell and Dewey Redman on ECM as Old And New Dreams. His own albums began with the Liberation Music Orchestra '69 on Impulse, committed music about oppression, particularly of Spanish-speaking peoples, by generals and politicians; the 13-piece group included Roswell Rudd, Andrew Cyrille, Cherry, Bley, Barbieri, etc. Sessions followed on the Artists House and Horizon labels with Hampton Hawes, Keith Jarrett, Paul Motian, Archie Shepp, Cherry, Coleman; duet Gitane '78 later on a Dreyfus CD with guitarist Christian Escoud; then on ECM: Magico and Folk Songs are trios with Egberto Gismonti and Jan Garbarek; followed by more Liberation Music: The Ballad Of The Fallen '82, with Cherry, Bley, Redman, Motian, etc. 

Meanwhile Haden formed Quartet West in 1986; their first eponymous album on Verve that year included Ernie Watts on sax (b 23 October 1945, Norfolk VA), Alan Broadbent on piano and Billy Higgins on drums; Quartet West In Angel City '88 saw Lawrence Marable replace Higgins. The group seemed drenched in nostalgia for the 1940s-50s; Haunted Heart '92 used the voices of Jo Stafford, Jeri Southern and Billie Holiday from old records; Always Say Goodbye '94 was music from a soundtrack using recordings by Stafford, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington and others; Now Is The Hour '96 had Broadbent's string arrangements on half the tracks. Haden and drummer Larance Marable (b 21 May 1928, Los Angeles; d 4 July 2012) had known each other for decades; Marable was said to be related to the famous riverboat bandleader Fate Marable, and no doubt called himself Lawrence for some years because people were going to spell it that way anyway.

Then there was a series of duo albums: None But The Lonely Heart on Naim with Chicago pianist Chris Anderson (b 26 February 1926; d 4 February 2008) was under Haden's name; then Steal Away with Hank Jones, Night And The City with Kenny Barron, and Beyond the Missouri Sky '96 with Pat Metheny, all on Verve/Polygram, the latter including several country songs, such as Roy Acuff's 'Precious Jewel', and 'Spiritual', written by Haden's son Josh. On The Art of the Song '99 with Quartet West Haden sang a country song for the first time since childhood, and it had become clear that Haden had never left his roots behind, nor saw any reason to do so: it was always about beauty.

More albums included Nocturne 2001, Land Of The Sun 2004, and Not In Our Name with the Liberation Music Orchestra. Then Rambling Boy 2008 on Decca was an out-and-out country album, reviving the Haden family tradition: his wife and four children (son Josh, and the triplets Rachel, Petra, and Tanya, b 11 October 1971 in NYC) were joined by Metheny, Bruce Hornsby, Elvis Costello and Dan Tyminski (who sang in the soundtrack for George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou), as well as a raft of country stars to match the stellar jazz musicians Haden has worked with: Rosanne Cash, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and more. All the children are musicians: Josh leads the band Spain; Tanya plays the cello, Rachel played bass with Todd Rungren and sang with Beck; Petra has played violin with the Foo Fighters, and made experimental vocal albums, such as a version of the Who's The Who Sell Out where she sang all the sounds, and currently tours with Rickie Lee Jones (her dad once played on a Jones album). Petra and Rachel were founding members of That Dog, who had albums on Geffen in the 1990s; the three girls have been harmonizing together all their lives. Haden's sister Mary said, 'If only Mom could've heard this.' 

Having sung together off and on since childhood, the three sang tunes from their rural repertoire at a benefit in 2012, backed by Petra's friend Joachim Cooder on drums. Joachim's dad Ry Cooder dropped by a rehearsal and immediately proposed an album. The Haden Triplets was released early in 2014 on Jack White's Third Man Records, with classic hillbilly tunes from Bill Monroe, the Carter Family, Webb Pierce, the Louvin Brothers, the Stanley Brothers and others.