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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.