Charlie Haden

Charlie Haden

Acoustic Bass icon Acoustic Bass

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July 11, 2014 (Age 76) died

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August 6, 1937 Birthday

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Shenandoah, Iowa, U.S. Birthplace

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Charlie Haden was a jazz bassist and composer and considered to be one of the most influential musicians of the free jazz movement. Beginning his career in the late 1950s as an original member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, Haden's playing showed that the bass could be more than just a supporting instrument allowing it to take a more direct role in group improvisation. After leaving Coleman's group Haden freelanced and then joined Keith Jarrett's trio in 1967 and remained with the group until 1976. Throughout the decades Haden led several of his own groups including the Liberation Music Orchestra, Old and New Dreams and the acclaimed straight ahead jazz group, Quartet West. In 1982 Haden established the jazz studies program at California Institute of the Arts where he remained on faculty for 3 decades. After several years of declining health Charlie Haden passed away in 2014 at the age of 76.


Charlie Haden was named a NEA Jazz Master in 2012. Charlie Haden's 2008 album, "Rambling Boy" pays tribute to the folk music of his childhood and features his children and other Americana artists. Charlie Haden's group, the Liberation Music Orchestra, collaborated with composer Carla Bley and performed and recorded political protest songs for over 30 years.

Early Life

Charlie Haden was born in Shenandoah, Iowa in 1937. His family hosted their own country-western radio program and Haden began singing with the family band when he was just 2 years old. He sang with the group until he contracted polio at age 15 and damage to his vocal chords limited his ability to sing. Around this time Haden became interested in jazz began playing the bass after he recovered. Haden moved to Los Angeles in 1957 to attend Westlake College of Music and began playing locally with Paul Bley, Red Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and, in 1959, Ornette Coleman.