At first glance, performer Charlie Haden would seem like an atypical jazz musicianand he is just that. He ritually performs behind a pane of plexiglass with his eyes shut, holding his bass an arm”s length away and turned in the opposite direction.
But it is not merely his stance that makes him unique to the world of jazz. Haden first became a jazz modernist in 1957, when he joined Ornette Coleman”s new quartet, which included trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins.
In this revolutionary group, Haden transformed the role of the bass from a mere accompaniment to a participant all of its own. In the 1960s, Haden recorded an album with the Liberation Music Orchestra, which earned a Grammy nomination, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other things.
In 1987, Haden became the leader of what would be his most successful group, the Quartet West. While recording several albums over the course of the “90”s, this band developed a reputation of evoking the Raymond Chandler “film noir” atmosphere of Hollywood in the 1940″s. Quartet West”s music also manifested and intertwined all of Charlie Haden”s many musical interests including classical, folk, American pop and contemporary jazz.
Another aspect of Haden”s musical individuality lies in his incredible character. He advises his students regularly, “If they want to be great jazz musicians, they have to strive first to become great human beings You have to develop your character to the level that you achieve when you”re touching music. It”s one of the most difficult things, I think.”
Haden”s charming character is, indeed, a reflection of his incomparable skills as a musician. In jazz bands, drummers are often wrongly accredited with keeping the beat. Haden, however, has silently claimed that which was rightfully his and other bassists. He unfailingly provides a baseline that, unlike other basselines, “creates a solid harmonic foundation out of the passages of independent melodies,” according to author Joachim Berendt in “The Jazz Book.” He communicates through the resounding, intense sound of the bass, his deep sensibility to music and to life.
Haden”s Quartet West will be joined onstage by vocalists Bill Henderson, Ruth Cameron and string players from the University”s School of Music.