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Blindfold test with Charlie Haden, 1991

Charlie Haden Snap Judgment (1991)

Every once in a while, Haden used to show up on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic radio program with Tom Schnabel. Haden would bring in music he liked, play it and talk about it, This is different: We play music for him, and he talks about it. It’s like Downbeat’s Blindfold Test, except we’re not trying to stump him, just get his reactions to various sounds that seem to have something to do with him musically or politically.

"Free Jazz," Written by Omette Coleman, performed in 1960 by Omette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell, Scott LaFaro and Charlie Haden. From the Omette Coleman album FreeJazz (Atlantic).

Also in this issue:
Read this week's interview with Denardo Coleman
Read this week's interview with Charlie Haden

From past issues:
Read a 1989 cover story on Ornette Coleman
Read a 1996 interview with Ornette Coleman
Read a 1991 interview with Charlie Haden

"I made this record date with a borrowed bass. My bass was in the pawnshop. It was a very difficult instrument to play, but I tried to do the best I could. The feeling there was tremendous."

"Bemsha Swing." Written by Thelonious Monk, performed in 1960 by John Coltrane, Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell and Percy Heath (only track on the Coltrane/Cherry album The Avant-Garde on which Haden didn’t play).

"That’s Cherry. That’s Blackwell, isn’t it? And is that Percy Heath? That’s Coltrane! This is The AvantGarde! I thought it was great, because it was a chance to play with Coltrane — I used to listen to him with Miles when they came to LA They played at this place called Jazz City, at Hollywood and Western. Coltrane and Miles and Paul Chambers and Philly Joe and Red Garland were at Jazz City, and I used to go and sit in the front row and listen to every note they played. And I was always too shy to go up and talk to them, until we got to the Five Spot, and Coltrane used to come into the club every night to listen to us, and stay all night. He’d wait until we finished, and then he’d grab Ornette by the arm and they’d go out and talk, hang out. And when he called me to do this record, I was real happy."

"Song for Che." Written by Charlie Haden, recorded in 1970 by the Liberation Music Orchestra. From the Charlie Haden album Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse ).

"When I was arrested in Portugal for dedicating this song to the black liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola, in ’71, the guys who arrested me were just like these guys [in the Rodney King beating].

"Now that N . . . Bush . . . I almost said Nixon — it was no accident that these three [Liberation Music] albums came out in Republican administrations. Now that Bush has public-relationed his way with this war into having 86 percent in the polls, he’s implementing all these fascist policies that he wants to do. He’s gonna get away with it."

"Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima." Written in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by 52 strings. From the 1967 album The New Music (RCA).

"Usually I’m more attracted to the Romantics and beautiful chords and voicings of string sections, but this composer uses dissonance and abstractness in a way that really is meaningful. And now that you tell me the title, I understand it much more."

"La Paloma." Written by S. de Yradier, performed in 1947 by Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra. Arranged by Gil Evans. From the CD The Jazz Arranger, Volume II (Columbia).

"Mm! That’s fantastic. I was going to say Stan Kenton, but the trumpets — there’s too much vibrato. This has gotta be in the early ‘’40s sometime. So I betcha it’s gotta be . . . is it Claude Thornhill? This motherfucker was bad, Jim. Gil Evans. Yeah, man. Unbelievable. People don’t realize how far ahead of the times they were, especially when Gil Evans was writing."

"Ida Lupino." Written by Carla BIey, performed in 1966 by Paul Bley, Steve Swallow and Barry Altschul. From the Paul Bley Trio album Closer (ESP).

"I used to sit with Carla, and she’d be sitting at the piano writing, and she always felt insecure about having people play her pieces, and she was writing all this great music. She’s a perfect composer, and the way she voices things, it’s so . . . oh, man. That’s gotta be Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. Carla’s one of the only people that I know can compose a song just the way I want it for my orchestra. When she says, ‘I’m gonna write a piece for your orchestra,’ I’m so happy, because I know it’s gonna be great."

"Demolition House." Written and performed in 1989 by Tackhead (Bernard Fowler, Keith Leblanc, Skip McDonald, Doug Wimbush and Adrian Sherwood). From the CD Friendly As a Hand Grenade (TVT).

"Turn this down a little bit. The thing that prevents me from hearing the essence of what’s going on is the drum synthesizer. It reminds me of a gigantic washing machine, the kind that has the window you can see inside, and the clothes are going back and forth, and it just never stops. It’s like a machine. I don’t really feel close to it."

"Reek of Putrefaction." Written and performed in 1989 by Carcass. From the CD Symphonies of Sickness (Combat/Earache ).

"There’s enough dismemberment going on in the world without writing music about it."

—G.B.


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