July 12, 2014

"I’d been playing in a lot of bands, and often I’d feel like improvising not on the chords but on the melody or the rhythm or just the mood of a song."

"But I couldn’t. The other musicians didn’t know what I was doing, they got thrown off," said the great jazz bassist Charlie Haden, speaking about a time in the 1950s, before he found Ornette Coleman, who was having a similar problem with other musicians. Here's "The Shape of Jazz to Come," the first album they made together and one of 4 albums that made "1959 The Year that Changed Jazz."

Haden died yesterday, at the age of 76. 

ADDED: Let me embed that "Year That Changed Jazz" video. You'll see Haden, speaking beginning at 7:57, talking about Miles Davis (during the part about the first of the 4 albums, which is "Kind of Blue" ("It makes you feel life so deeply that you could almost cry")).



AND: Start the video at 28:05 to concentrate on the Ornette Coleman material and to hear Haden discuss his connection to Coleman. "This guy started to play — it was like the heavens opened up to me, because I saw and I heard something that I'd been feeling."

25 comments:

Alex said...

Improvisation is overrated. Give me a thorough-composed piece any day.

Bob R said...

Crack described The Ramones as a "cancer" in a previous thread (before saying "long live the Ramones.") I don't pretend to know exactly what he meant, but one interpretation is that they convinced a lot of other people with less talent to play bad music. The Shape of Jazz to Come did that in spades. A truly great album that inspired a lot of bad music. Contrast that to Kind of Blue that inspired a lot of mediocre music. (Modal jazz is the easiest to play. At its worst it's still as good as jam band rock.)

I was never a big Charlie Haden fan (or Mingus fan.) I have a pretty mundane concept of the bassist's obligation of the ensemble. Haden was great player, just not my style.

Nichevo said...

Okay, unlike most of your mooning about culture, this is important. IPhone 5 - stupid Android voice to text! Anyway, I was going to say that this music of the future thing seems to have been a thing for a while. I happen to be extremely into the Nero Wolfe detective stories of Rex Stout, and in a couple of different stories he mentions musicians making, or wishing to make, the music of the future. Was it something from your time, Althouse?

AReasonableMan said...

I still primarily listen to jazz from the late 50's and early 60's. It was the greatest era for jazz. The jazz-rock that came later was an artistic disaster that decimated the genre. Subsequent efforts to rebuild from the base established in the 50's and 60's have never recaptured either the spirit or the commercial success of that time. Not really a fan of Brubeck's music or much of Mingus' output either, although both have some classic tracks, Take 5 and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.

B said...

I'm partial to Bill Evans. But all the greats of that era are incredible.

Auntie Ann said...

One of the cool things about music is that it gets handed down. A student of Haden's is now teaching our 12 year old clarinet and our 14 year old jazz piano. Their teacher was here yesterday and was a bit broken up over the loss of his mentor.

Will Cate said...

I have all four of those albums.

Carol said...

Loved Miles Davis in this era, but his spawn Coltrane took jazz off a cliff. And rock just buried it. I always felt guilty about it.

Jazz lives in the academy now - the kiss of death.

fivewheels said...

Man, when I think of 1959, I think of Coltrane and "Giant Steps," which I think is at least as significant as any of the four other milestone albums. A lot of people would include Horace Silver's "Blowin' the Blues Away" too.

Civilization had one of its high points that year. And people still were listening to good music made by good musicians. Another thing the Boomers are pretty much responsible for killing.

eddie willers said...

A truly great album that inspired a lot of bad music.

That's how I felt about Led Zepplin.

They spawned a generation of awful hair bands with screaming, ear breaking falsettos and tuneless guitar riffs.

fivewheels said...

Crap, am I wrong on Giant Steps? I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it says it was 1960, but I always thought it was a 59er. I assume I got that impression from a book (I was still a decade from being born) so ... never mind.

Eeyore Rifkin said...

"Giant Steps" was released in mono in December 59, stereo in January 60. Maybe the documentary producers excluded it because they considered it a 60 release. "Naima" was released as a single in 59.

Incidentally, that song features in the Pawlikowski movie Ida. It seemed a little anachronistic to me, and I would have thought Paul Desmond would have been a more likely influence, but... I wouldn't put it past State or the CIA to have distributed Coltrane records behind the iron curtain, and at one point the sax player in the movie puts on the 45, so he wouldn't have had to wait for Coltrane to tour to learn the tune. (Coltrane had the tune in his repertoire in 61 and 65; his 60 tour was with the Granz band, which wasn't a showcase for his compositions.)

rcommal said...

\/ /\

rcommal said...

Also, "improvisation" ≠ "sloppiness"--

just to say

rcommal said...

Alex:

Just on the odds, I'd bet I've got a more extensive music library than do you.

---

Also, separately, I'd bet that I love music more than you do.

Ann Althouse said...

It's a BBC documentary, so question when "Giant Steps" was released in Britain.

The documentary is good in part because there are 4 different instruments played by the leaders on each to the 3 albums, and Ornette Coleman was the saxophonist in the set.

Even though the narrator has an American accent, he pronounces "saxophonist" with the accent on the second syllable, which is "soph" -- sack-SOFF-o-nist.

Never heard it pronounced like that at all. Is that the way Brits say it?

fivewheels said...

I'm not far through the video, but I did enjoy that people are supposed to be astonished that Kind of Blue was recorded in seven hours.

Again, it's the difference between real musicians and pop "musicians." For jazz (or classical, or bluegrass, etc.) artists, equipment is there to record the performance. Today, it takes months of labor by a crew of engineers on millions of dollars worth of equipment to fool people into believing there is such a thing as a "recording" of a Beyonce "song."

Anyway, sad to hear of Charlie Haden. I heard some of his recent work with Keith Jarrett and liked it. Here's some nice things Jarett said during their work together.

Charlie said...

Here's a piece Coleman recorded 5 years ago with Joe Henry. Incredible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89XGd9tG-30

The Crack Emcee said...

"This guy started to play — it was like the heavens opened up to me, because I saw and I heard something that I'd been feeling."

Black people are amazing. It's O.K. to say it. What'd the man say?

"We enhance your very existence."

Being a member of this equally-despised tribe, I like that.

My old man took a few hits on this thread. That's O.K., too. Still, it'll never stop being weird when I'm just another guy out, randomly reading shit.

I still want to see his critics do this.

Or explain why the greats worked with him, or why Joni Mitchell did a whole album for him. As he was dying.

It's all good, as you're dying,...

Alex said...

rcommal - you might have a more extensive music library, but it is illogical to claim that you love music more. That is not objective. I'm sure you wouldn't know what "Bass Communion" is.

Anonymous said...

Giant Steps definitely needs to be on that list. Glaring omission of a very aptly named record.

Here's a fantastic Haden set I came across yesterday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEpMLiqzZd8&feature=youtu.be

JZ said...

Miles Davis was a musical genius for awhile. Then he started playing kids, married Betty and made lousy records like "Bitches Brew."

Curious George said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLMme9ItKCw

Mike said...

I like that Crack quotes a line from "Be Cool" above, referencing something the character played by Cedric the Entertainer says to summarize a racially charged exchange. "Be Cool" is a highly under-rated motion picture with exceptional performances from Cedric, Andre Benjamin (a/k/a Andre 3000), Harvey Keitel and others. It is loosely a sequel to "Get Shorty" but stanbs alone just fine.

rcommal said...

Alex:

LOL.