Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2010: Sonny Rollins

Charlie Haden, b. 1937: Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories)

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Throughout his long career, Charlie Haden has striven for musical excellence and variety. He is one of the world’s best improvisers, and his bass playing has set a standard for several generations of jazz artists.

It is no surprise that Charlie Haden became a musician. His family’s country band, the Haden Family Singers, had a radio show and they were regulars at Nashville’s Grand Old Opry. Charlie joined the family business at the age of two, when it was discovered he could harmonize with the songs his mother sang around the house. When he was fifteen, a bout with polio paralyzed part of Haden’s face and his vocal chords, making it impossible for him to control his pitch when he sang. Then a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour came to town, and Haden saw Charlie Parker play for the first time. He became hooked on jazz and started playing the bass. In the mid-1950s, he moved to Los Angeles and soon found work as a bassist….

The projects with his bands, the Liberation Music Orchestra in the 1970s and Quartet West in the late 1980s, and collaborations with Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba have taken many stylistic directions, none of them standard to jazz. His music is experimental, what is known as “free jazz,” and incorporates styles form Africa and Latin America. It has also been quite political….

One of Haden’s most rewarding duo albums, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories) [Verve #3145371302], was recorded in 1996 with his friend guitarist Pat Metheny. It is a highly lyrical CD that gently reveals the expansive emotional heart of thirteen ballads. Although eighteen years separates Haden and Metheny in age, they share many of the same experiences. Both grew up in small towns in Missouri, Haden in Forsyth and Metheny about a hundred miles away in Lee’s Summit. Both practiced for hours, staring out at the vast Midwestern landscape. Both have a love of country and pop music….

Haden and Metheny create gorgeous lyrical sounds on Beyond the Missouri Sky. Their playing has depth and profundity, and they make it sound effortless.

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