The Soul of Harmony

Congratulations to Charlie Haden for receiving a really nice honor last week: 

The Recording Academy® ( announced its Special Merit Awards recipients today, and this year's honorees are: Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, Lightnin' Hopkins, Carole King, Patti Page, Ravi Shankar and the Temptations as Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

Later on the press release there's a pretty good description of what makes Charlie special.

A three-time GRAMMY winner Charlie Haden is an all-American jazz musician best known for his signature lyrical bass lines and his ability to liberate the bassist from an accompanying role. In addition to his groundbreaking work as an original member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, he has collaborated with such jazz artists as Chet Baker, Ed Blackwell, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Billy Higgins, Art Pepper, and Archie Shepp. Throughout his five decade career, Haden has revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing and has covered such genres as free jazz, Portuguese fado and vintage country.

Not bad for a Grammy announcement.  The phrase "revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing" is actually dead on. Charlie is endlessly provocative in his choice of notes. 

The one thing that should always be said about Charlie, though, is that there is a whole genre of music with "improvised harmony" that can't exist without him. It started with Ornette, then moved to Keith Jarrett, Dewey Redman, and Paul Motian, then Old and New Dreams, then Pat Metheny, Billy Higgins, and Jack DeJohnette. All of that canonical music requires Charlie Haden. Those are the names that need to be in the Grammy blurb!

I've praised it on DTM before, but I just re-listened again last week and was reminded again of how great it truly is: The Golden Number, Charlie's own album of duets with Ornette, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, and Hampton Hawes.


Another of my favorite magicians of harmony is Richard Strauss. After Lisa Della Casa passed away recently, the first-ever recording of Four Last Songs has been in rotation.  Della Casa's exquisite voice soars with no apparent effort over the heavy orchestra.  By modern standards, the tempos are rather quick, but since Della Casa and Karl Böhm both worked with the composer, I believe we can take it as an authentic interpretation. It grew on me as I kept listening.

Strauss found progressions no one else ever has. Charlie Haden is on the same turf. The Golden Number and Four Last Songs:  Each track is a miracle. 


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