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Remembering Jazz Legend Charlie Haden, Who Crafted His Voice In Bass

Jazz legend Charlie Haden has died. Polio damaged Haden's voice when he was young, but as a bassist and composer, Haden helped shape the sound of jazz and still spanned country and gospel. For more on Haden's life and music, you can hear Melissa Block speak with Slate columnist and jazz critic Fred Kaplan at the audio link on this page.

Bassist and composer Charlie Haden, whose resonant playing and penetrating melodic craft influenced generations of jazz musicians, died this morning in Los Angeles, after a prolonged illness. He was 76.

Born and raised in the rural Midwestern United States, Haden grew up singing on his family's country and western radio program from the age of two. As a teenager, he took up the bass, and in 1957, he moved to Los Angeles. There, he integrated quickly into the jazz community, including joining the band of the Ornette Coleman. His recordings and performances with Coleman's bands over decades not only anchored the saxophonist's innovative approaches to harmony and melody, but put his own instrument in the spotlight.


Haden's death was announced by his record label, ECM Records.

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. Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side.

We will have more on Haden's life and music in this space.

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