Great Jazz Bassists

Charlie Haden

portrait of Charlie Haden

Charlie Haden was an original member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet that revolutionized jazz in the late 1950’s. He created the harmonic concept of improvising radical melodic responses to the free-form solos of Coleman instead of the familiar harmonies of other bassists. In this way, he helped to liberate the instrument from an accompaniment to a direct participant in the musical improvisation.

Haden, originally from the Ozarks, traveled with his family in the 1930’s and 40’s, performing across the country and on the radio until he met Coleman who took him to great heights. Collaborating with jazz giants such as John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and Keith Jarrett, he led the improvisational style of jazz into the mainstream of music.

In 1969, he created the Liberation Music Orchestra, which toured across the world performing satirized versions of free jazz and political music. The music was very experimental and explored the boundaries of music with a who's who of jazz instrumentalists. Haden continued to protest the Vietnam War, the United States involvement in Latin America, and amplify the voices of the oppressed.

In 1971, while on tour with Ornette Coleman in Portugal, He was arrested and jailed in Lisbon after publically rebuking the stifling and oppressive government. After spending a significant time in jail, he was thrown out of the country. He became one of the top Latin jazz artists in the world.

A few years later, he met Pat Metheny and played with some of the most notable modern jazz artists including Michael Brecker, Dewey Redman, and Jack DeJohnette. Over the years, he has performed with John Scofield, Ginger Baker, Joe Lovano, Stan Getz, and Ravi Coltrane to name only a few.

In 1982, he established the jazz studies program at the California Institute of the Arts, and has been a huge proponent of musical education for many years. He has received three Grammys and more than fifteen Grammy nominations as well as countless international awards. He died in Springfield, MO in 2014.


  • The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic/1959)
  • Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (Atlantic/1961)
  • Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!/1969)
  • Life Between The Exit Signs (Atlantic/1967)
  • Rejoicing (ECM/1983)
  • Michael Brecker (Impulse!/1987)
  • Quartet West (Verve/1987)

For links to websites with his discography and library, visit:,, and