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Charlie Haden

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Charles Edward “Charlie” Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014) was an American jazz double bass player, known for his long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, pianist Keith Jarrett, and his Liberation Music Orchestra, a group he co-led with pianist Carla Bley.

Haden was born in Shenandoah, Iowa, and was raised on a farm. His family was exceptionally musical; they performed together frequently on the radio, playing country music and American folk songs as the Haden Family Band. Haden was musical from an early age, and made his professional debut as a singer, when he was two years old, on the Haden Family’s radio show. He continued singing with his family until he contracted a bulbar form of polio around his throat and facial muscles when he was 15. The polio damaged his throat muscles and vocal cords, and as a result, Haden was unable to control his pitch while singing. At age 14, before he had contracted polio, Haden had become interested in jazz, and began playing his older brother’s double bass. He developed this interest after he lost the ability to sing. Haden’s interest in the instrument was not sparked by jazz bass alone, but by the classical bass he heard frequently on the radio. He was particularly fascinated by the bass he heard in compositions by Bach. Eventually he set his sights on Los Angeles, and to save money for the trip took a job as house bassist for ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri.

Haden moved to Los Angeles in 1957 in search of pianist Hampton Hawes.

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