Thursday, March 2, 2017

Josef Woodward and Charlie Haden, Conversations with Charlie Haden

You do not know Charlie Haden? Anyone reading this column needs to know if they don't. Simply put, Charlie (1937-2014) was a titan of the acoustic bass, among the select handful of the most important and influential bassists of the second half of last century.

And a new book is out that will give you a bird's eye view of why he matters. Conversations with Charlie Haden (Sillman-James Press, 235 pages, paper, $19.95) is an insightful series of interviews Josef Woodward had with Charlie from 1988 to 2008.

The dialogs reveal Charlie as a thoughtful, aesthetically consistent artist who ever strived to realize himself  without compromise, no matter where that took him, from his precocious beginnings as a singer in the family hillbilly band with a regular radio broadcast from age two onwards, his polio and its sharp curtailment of vocalizing, the subsequent lifelong commitment to the contrabass as his principal medium of expression, his rise to fame as the innovative bass voice in Ornette Coleman's breakthrough quartet and its carving out of avant free jazz, and his subsequent involvement with other collaborations, the advent of his Liberation Music Orchestra and later, Quartet West.

All that is covered thoughtfully. Charlie gives us great insight into his involvement with and understanding of Ornette's harmolodic approach, of his bass as fulfilling the role of piano in that band, only being fed the harmonic implications of Ornette's lines rather than the reverse.

But there are lots of other things to gain from this book. Charlie's view of the importance of finding yourself and who YOU are musically is a recurring theme, for example, great advice for any aspiring artist.

It's a book that practically reads itself. Compelling commentary from a jazz titan! Read it by all means.

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