By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
CHARLlE HADEN IS ALWAYS LOOKING for something you can’t see with your eyes, which may be why he closes ’em so much when he plays his upright bass. Meanwhile, his fingers, down there on the strings, are pulling up other kinds of memories, the kind you might call "primal" because they stir things inside you. He’s not so much communicating —more like both you and he have focused on the same essential image. It’s hard to say how Haden creates this atmosphere out of his full-spectrum, room-filling tone, pushing/retarding rhythms, and back-and-forth note choices, and he doesn’t like to talk about technique, but it just seems that he has access to something . . . deep.
The bathysphere has been submerged quite a while: Haden first got recognition beside Ornette Coleman in the post-bop musical revolution of the late ’50s, and went from there to record on his own, including three Liberation Music projects, the most recent of which, the stirring Dream Keeper, was recently released. He has also performed with most of jazz’s major figures and an unpredictable selection of other musicians from around the world — good examples are his upcoming duo recording with Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes, and a series of four trio releases over the past couple of years with pianist Geri Allen and drummer Paul Motian. Haden has also been nominated for jazz Artist of the Year by the Danish jazz Center’s Jazzpar Committee — it’s the only worldwide award given for the music. And "deep" is a word that comes up a lot when he talks.
"I’ve always been an idealist, and I believe that inside of every human that’s born on this planet is the capacity for deep feelings," says Haden, who once again calls himself an LA. resident, even though he tours much of the year. "I think that these feelings are stifled or taken away by the environment, by the system that we live in. And I really believe that every human being has the universe inside of them from the beginning of time."
Spoken like the alienated kid he was back in ’40s Missouri, alone with his thoughts, unattracted by what passes for regular-guyness and aware of unexplainable forces. Somehow you’d guess from listening to this guy play, that that’s what he thinks. Really it’s no heavy thing, no Sermon on the Mount, no Parmenides, but that "universal" stuff is what his music soundslike. So where does it come from?
"I tell young musicians that everyone has their own musical voice inside of them, just like everyone has their own voice as far as their vocal cords are concerned, and it’s just a matter of discovering that voice. Charlie Parker sounded the way he did no matter whose alto saxophone he picked up, and any jazz musician who has made any kind of positive impact on the art form, they all have these distinctive sounds, because that’s the way they heard — they were able to transform how they heard into their instrument.
"The first thing you have to do is start with complete silence, and be able to listen to the most minute fraction, particle of your voice. Whether you’re a reed player, or a trumpet player, or a chordal-instrument player, you have to be able to hear the deepness of what you’re hearing, and you also have to be able to hear every nuance, every texture, every breath, every timbre, every pitch. In order to hear all those things, you have to really start out with reverence, as if you’re walking into a holy place. You have to implement what you’ve learned about humility."
Haden is his own best example. You can hear sharply what he means on the soon-to-be-released Dialogue,a duo with Carlos Paredes.
Paredes is the unchallenged master of the Portuguese guitar, a 14-stringed instrument that sounds like a combination of a guitar, a mandolin and a harpsichord. With his multilayered compositions, his fiercely snorting attack, his digit-boggling dexterity and his intense vibrato, Paredes is nothing if not a strongpartner. Even intimidating, you might say. Haden just gets down and applies his theory.
In a format like this, the players can do what both enjoy and what Haden does particularly well: suspend notions of time. "Canto de Trabalho" and "Verdes A√Īos" are Paredes’ musical territory, and Haden foJlows like a clairvoyant lamb, just behind the beat, expanding the fullness of the phrases and the pauses and adding weight with his resinous, fibrous bass tone. When he’s waiting for a change, he holds on a stuttering high-low octave jump, then, when a melodic turn grabs him, spirals into a challenging countermelody that surprises Paredes, drawing him out of his preconception into a rising union.
Haden’s own "Song for Che" is the prototypical example of his musical affinity for things Iberian. As Haden solos, the descending minor-key riff compresses and inflates; he deletes rests where you expect them and elaborates where you expect a chord change. The metronomic anchor isn’t missed; in fact, you tend to wonder why all music isn’t like this — it reflects the workings of our unmechanical minds. Paredes drops in with a solo passage that bears only a slight relation to the melody, as if to say, "This is what you made me create." Haden returns the favor on ‘Verdes A√Īos." The greatest accomplishment is that you inspire others to make something new.
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