charlie haden

The legendary bassist’s soul, taste, and tone left an indelible mark on jazz and created a musical legacy for generations to come.

Charlie Haden passed away on July 11, 2014. He was one of the most influential bass players of his generation—a tribe that includes Dave Holland and Stanley Clarke. Thinking of Haden in terms of his contemporaries may be misleading, though, because he never sounded like them or anyone else. Sure, he could walk four-to-the-bar jazz lines when the music required it—that’s part of the job description. But what was so special about Haden’s way with the instrument was how freely he could play—stretching his phrases, emphasizing melodic depth, all while holding down the fort. Haden was also a marvelous composer and respected teacher, having helped to launch the Jazz Studies program at California Institute of the Arts (aka CalArts) in the early ’80s.

Haden’s playing has been called “lyrical” so often that it can start to feel cliché, but it’s hard to think of a more apt descriptor. In his improvisations, Haden often seemed to be reciting a poem or singing a spiritual on his instrument, one fervent phrase at a time. Words, however, can only go so far to describe the singular musician that Haden was. If you’ve never heard him—or, even if you have—there’s no better time than right now to give your ears over to some of his work as a fearless bandleader and collaborator. There, in the music—that’s where his story is.

Read MoreShow less