Jazz great Charlie Haden died today, July 11, 2014, after health struggles due to post-childhood polio syndrome the past few years. Although he no longer performed live, he continued to record and receive honors and accolades. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Master in 2012. The ISB honored Charlie Haden with its 2011 Special Recognition Award for Jazz Performance.
A three-time Grammy winner for collaborations with guitarist Pat Methany and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, he first attracted notice as a member of Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet in the late 1950s. Always a believer in music as a political force as well as a vehicle for beauty, he founded the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969, and performed in various ensembles over the decades with a veritable who’s who of jazz, including Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Keith Jarrett, Don Cherry, Paul Motian, John Coltrane, Lee Konitz, Joe Henderson, Abbey Lincoln, Joe Lovano and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as forays into pop and rock projects.
His Quartet West project, launched in 1986, recorded eight critically acclaimed albums. In 2008, Charlie and his family members revisited his country and bluegrass roots with Rambling Boy, featuring vintage radio clips of his earliest appearances singing with his older brothers and sister in the Haden Family country band – he made his professional debut at the ripe age of 22 months. What becomes his final recording, Last Dance, with longtime collaborator pianist Keith Jarrett, was only recently released.
According to his label ECM, Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side when he passed away in Los Angeles.