Legendary musician Charlie Haden, who was comfortable in genres ranging from free jazz to folk music to punk rock, has passed away at the age of 76 after a prolonged illness, his record label announced on Friday.
“It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Charlie Haden, born August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, passed away today at 10:11 Pacific time in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness,” said Tina Pelikan, ECM Records Publicity, in a statement.
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A virtuoso with a wide-ranging taste and a warm, lyrical tone, Haden grew up on a farm in Iowa and frequently performed with his family on the radio. After contracting polio at age 15, the illness left him unable to sing, so he turned to jazz and the bass, ultimately becoming one of the pioneers of the genre. His notable recordings include “The Shape of Jazz to Come” with Ornette Coleman.
The multiple Grammy winner picked up his first trophy in 2001, when Haden won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz CD for his album “Nocturne,” which contains boleros from Cuba and Mexico. In 2003 he won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Performance for his album “Land of the Sun.”
Haden recorded in a variety of formats and with a remarkable range of collaborators; he was an exceptionally open-minded musician who recorded avant garde jazz, pop standards, country and folk songs, hymns and even rock ‘n’ roll and punk music.
His groups included the pioneering Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet and the Charlie Haden Quartet West, which at its inception created a lush aural version of film noir, a trip through the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s based around songs and scores from films of that time.
One of Haden’s last albums, 2008’s “Rambling Boy,” revisited the folk and country music he learned as a child and included collaborations with Jack Black (Haden’s son in law), Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Pat Metheny, Bruce Hornsby and many more. It ended with one of Haden’s few vocal performances, on a fragile and beautiful version of “Shenandoah.”
In 2012, Haden received the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award.
He was mourned on Twitter by musicians ranging from jazz players Jack DeJohnette, Greg Kot and Dave Holland to Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, who wrote, “Charlie Haden was a beautiful man who gave us so much.”
He is survived by Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh, Tanya, Rachel and Petra, who were all by his side at the time of his death.
All four of his children are musicians.