“If you go back and listen to all the records I’ve made, they’re not really about jazz.
They’re about beautiful music.”
Charlie Haden (1937–2014) was the rare sort of musician who transcended easy categorization—other than to say that his uniquely elegant and eloquent bass playing, with its readily recognizable sound, defined a certain pinnacle of musical communication in beautiful, spontaneous, and intensely emotional ways. Throughout his career, he worked with and influenced many of the most interesting musicians of the second half of the twentieth century, including Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett, Billy Higgins, Paul Motion, Dewey Redman, Pat Metheny, Egberto Gismonti, Gavin Bryars, Geri Allen, Brad Mehldau, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and literally hundreds of others.
In Conversations, Haden discusses his life and politics and music and aesthetics in a series of candid interviews conducted over two decades. While parts of this collection have appeared in various periodicals, much of it is in print here for the first time.
Forewords by Bill Frisell and Alan Broadbent
“Jazz journalist Josef Woodard knew the great bassist Charlie Haden (1937-2014) for quite a few years and interviewed him about various subjects on 17 occasions during 1988-2008. Conversations with Charlie Haden contains all of those talks along with an introduction by Woodard and brief forwards from Bill Frisell and Alan Broadbent. During 1958-59, Haden was probably the only bassist in the world who could have given the revolutionary Ornette Coleman the support that he needed in his new free jazz, playing without set chord changes and improvising based on the melody and mood of a piece rather than its chord structure. Haden talks a lot about those years, his associations with Old and New Dreams, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, and his leadership of his Liberation Music Orchestra and Quartet West. He also philosophizes about life, discusses jazz education, and conveys an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude about creating new music.In these colorful discussions, the bassist’s joyful personality, intellect and curiosity towards life shine through. The result is a fascinating and important book that is a tribute to the spirit of Charlie Haden.”
—Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene
“Charlie Haden was an extraordinary musician, and he had an extraordinary life. His performing career began at the age of two, when he sang what he called ‘hillbilly music’ with his family’s band on their Missouri radio show. As a teenager, he began to play bass and listen intently to jazz; when he was 18, he moved to Los Angeles to study music. The rest, as they say, is history: groundbreaking work with Ornette Coleman, founding the Liberation Music Orchestra, collaborations with dozens of musicians in many styles, leadership of Quartet West, the tribute to his musical roots on the 2008 album Rambling Boy, and—above all—a lifelong dedication to honesty, social justice, and ‘beautiful music.’ It’s all here in this collection of 17 interviews conducted over 20 years by veteran jazz journalist Josef Woodard, who calls it a ‘verbal companion to the sublime musical sounds Charlie created.’”
—Jim Roberts, Bass Player magazine
“From country music in the heartland to bebop in California and free jazz in New York—and back again numerous times over—Charlie Haden’s story is a classic American saga, and Josef Woodard allows him to tell it eloquently and in moving detail.”
—Francis Davis, author of Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader
“Charlie Haden’s ears, hands, idealism, sentimentalism, curiosity, and rebelliousness led him to take part in some of the greatest music called jazz; anything that great is always misunderstood. This book, a transcription of a twenty-year conversation with regular changes of focus, helps remedy the situation.”
—Ben Ratliff, author of Every Song Ever
“Joe Woodard’s treasure trove of interviews with Charlie Haden gives us such an intimate feeling of the jazz giant that we feel like we’re sitting in the room with an old friend. Even better, Haden opens up about his iconic musical associates over the years, allowing us rare access into the insular world of jazz itself.”
—Michelle Mercer, author of Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter