Jazz Bassist Charlie Haden Returns to Fresh Air.
Jazz bassist Charlie Haden. His newest release with his Quartet West is "The Art of The Song" (Verve). Haden formed the quartet to play the music of the 1940s and early 50s. He's worked with jazz musicians Art Pepper, Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman. And he's recorded with many artists including Abbey Lincoln, Bill Frisell, Joshua Redman, Rick Lee Jones, and others.
Other segments from the episode on October 7, 1999
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 07, 1999
Head: Charlie and Josh Haden: Father and Son Musicians
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.
Transcribed by Judy Stein
DAVID BIANCULLI, GUEST HOST: I'm David Bianculli, filling in for Terry Gross.
On today's FRESH AIR, bassist Charlie Haden. With his group Quartet West, Haden has paid tribute to film noir and detective novels. Their newest album salutes "The Art of the Song" and features the singing of Shirley Horne (ph) and Bill Henderson and Haden himself.
And we meet Josh Haden, a bassist like his father, who's gone from punk to slow and moody music with his trio, Spain. They have a new CD.
Also, we remember jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist Art Farmer. He died on Monday.
That's all coming up on today's FRESH AIR.
First, the news.
BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry Gross.
Before we sent Terry home to get over her cold, she had a chance to record an interview with Charlie Haden, one of the greatest living jazz bass players.
Haden helped change the shape of jazz in the late '50s and early '60s as a member of the original Ornette Colman Quartet. In 1969, he launched his own group, the Liberation Music Orchestra, whose music was inspired by democracy movements around the world.
In '86, he founded his group Quartet West, whose sound pays tribute to film noir, detective novels, and jazz and pop singers of the '40s and '50s.
The new Quartet West album is a collection of classic but seldom performed songs featuring singers Shirley Horne and Bill Henderson. The quartet's pianist, Alan Broadbent (ph), arranged and conducted the chamber orchestra, and Charlie Haden makes his recorded vocal debut. The CD is called "The Art of the Song."
TERRY GROSS, HOST: Charlie Haden, welcome back to FRESH AIR.
CHARLIE HADEN, "THE ART OF THE SONG": Thanks, Terry.
GROSS: Why did you want to do an album of songs?
HADEN: I wanted to do an album of what I call art songs that are lasting melodies with beautiful chord structures that not very many people have recorded. And when I started thinking about doing this record, I got these special songs that I wanted to hear Shirley Horne and Bill Henderson sing.
GROSS: Let me play a track from the CD, and this is one that features Bill Henderson singing. And the song is "You, My Love," and it's from a Frank Sinatra film called "Young at Heart." It stars Sinatra and Doris Day. And he plays this alienated composer who earns a living singing and playing at bars where people don't appreciate him, and he's, like, writing this song for the whole movie, but he's blocked by his own self-doubt and by his inferiority complex.
And at the end of the movie, he finally completes the song and sings it. I've never heard anybody do this song, "You, My Love," outside of the movie. Why did you decide to feature it on your CD?
HADEN: I was this movie when I was, you know, just out of high school, and I loved the song. I've always got music running through my head while I go about my daily work. And this song has never left me. And I pictured, you know, Bill Henderson singing it.
You know, and Bill Henderson was friends with Frank Sinatra. Frank really loved the way Bill sang. And Bill told me stories about when he was in Vegas in the '60s, and Frank Sinatra was at the Sands and he was at the Sands, and Frank kind of took him under his wing and introduced him to a lot of people and really loved the way Bill Henderson sang.
GROSS: Well, let's hear Bill Henderson singing this song originated by Frank Sinatra. The music is by Jimmy Van Husen (ph) and the lyric by Matt Gordon. And this is an excerpt of a track from Charlie Haden's new CD.
(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "YOU, MY LOVE," BILL HENDERSON)
GROSS: That's Bill Henderson singing "You, My Love," from Charlie Haden's new CD.
Although your new CD is called "The Art of the Song," the -- there are a couple of things you sneak in here that aren't songs. For example, I want to play something from a Rachmaninoff symphony, and this is a Moment Musicale, Opus 16, Number 3, in B minor.
Let's start with why this piece means a lot to you and you wanted to include it on here.
HADEN: Rachmaninoff has always been one of my favorite composers. I wish I could have met him and talked to him and asked him all kinds of questions. And he wrote these slow movements that were just the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. And he wrote this piano -- these series of piano pieces called Musical Moments. And this was just one of them. Actually it's one of my favorite ones. And I always pictured it being played by a chamber orchestra.
And one day when Alan Broadbent was at my house and we were discussing the arrangements, I said, "I want to play this for you," you know, and I played it for him, and he really -- he -- I mean, Alan is very aware classically. He was classically trained. He knows all classical music. And he had never heard this particular piece before. And he really loved it.
And I said, "Would you like to just arrange this for orchestra, chamber orchestra, exactly the way it's written for piano?" He said, "I'd really love to." So that's why this came about.
GROSS: Well, let's hear it. And this is from Charlie Haden's new CD, "The Art of the Song."
(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, RACHMANINOFF MOMENT MUSICALE, ARRANGED BY ALAN BROADBENT)
GROSS: That's an excerpt of a piece by Rachmaninoff as arranged by Alan Broadbent for Charlie Haden's new CD, "The Art of the Song."
That's really quite nice. I love the walking bass line that you're doing underneath that, and I was wondering if there was anything comparable happening in the left hand in the original Rachmaninoff piano piece.
HADEN: Actually, that wasn't me that were...
GROSS: That wasn't you?
HADEN: There was -- no, that was two bass players that were in the orchestra.
HADEN: The orchestra consisted of 30 strings, violins, first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, and two bass players. And one of the bass players is the first chair bassist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And I was very glad that they were there and reading all that music. And I was reading music too, but I was reading the other music.
And on this particular piece, I only played these little interludes that the piano plays. You can hear when I come in pizzicato. But that was done in the classical piano piece with the left hand playing the bass.
GROSS: So it was the same kind of line?
HADEN: It was the exact -- this is the exact piano, the way the piece is written for piano. This is exactly the way it is written, only just done for orchestra.
GROSS: Did you spend much time talking with the classical -- was it cello or bass doing that walking line?
HADEN: That was the bass players.
GROSS: Yes. Did you spend talking to them and kind of comparing notes about your approaches to your instrument? Did you find that they had a different kind of sound or a different concept behind it?
HADEN: Well, whenever bass players get together, especially classical players and jazz players, they always exchange notes and look at each others' basses, you know, and they were very interested in seeing my bass because it's a very beautiful French bass made in 1840 by Jean-Baptiste Vouillomen (ph). And every -- they were both -- and even the cellists were looking at the bass.
And I was looking at their basses, and so -- (laughs) and they were just saying that how great it -- and what a pleasure it was for them to do this music, because usually in the studios, there -- they get studio calls every day to play very run-of-the-mill music, which, you know, they can read "The L.A. Times" to. And this was very special for them, and everybody in the orchestra thanked me afterwards. They said, This was a really special musical moment for us.
GROSS: Now, your children -- you have, like, three daughters who are triplets and a son. And I think most of them play music now. Your son actually has a new CD, Joshua Haden. And I'm wondering if you did anything as a father to consciously encourage or discourage your children from playing music and from playing it professionally. And the reason why I ask about discouraging is I know there are plenty of people in music who wouldn't want to see their children become professional musicians because it's such a hard life.
HADEN: I really never gave that a second thought. I wanted them to be happy, and especially be excited about what they wanted to do in their lives. And of course their young lives were surrounded by all different kinds of music around the house. And when Josh -- he was the oldest, he was born in 1968, and the triplets were born in 1971. And when he was, like, 3 and 4 and 5 years old, he was listening to music that he really loved, and also listening to jazz and classical music.
And then when he started developing a need to play, he would call me into his room and he'd say, "Dad, you got to listen to that -- this, and you got to listen to this," and he would play me the Meat Puppets and he would play me Black Flag and he would play me all these alternative bands. And I'd never heard any music like that before. And he really introduced me to new music.
And I just encouraged him, and I encouraged my daughters. They're all very gifted, Rachel, Petra, and Tanya (ph). I'm so proud of them. And I think they're all innovators. And they happen to be my favorite musicians right now.
BIANCULLI: Bassist Charlie Haden speaking with Terry Gross. His new CD with his quartet West Group is "The Art of the Song."
We'll hear more of their interview later in the show.
Coming up, we meet Josh Haden.
This is FRESH AIR.
BIANCULLI: Charlie Haden said his favorite musicians are his kids. Charlie's son, Josh, has his own performing career as a singer, songwriter, and bassist of the group Spain. Josh Haden co-founded the group in 1993.
After years of playing in a punk band, he decided to move to a softer, more acoustic sound. Spain has just released their second CD, "She Haunts My Dreams."
Before we get to Terry's interview with Josh Haden, let's listen to a song off the CD. This is "Hoped and Prayed."
(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "HOPED AND PRAYED," JOSH HADEN AND SPAIN)
GROSS: Josh Haden singing from Spain's new CD, "She Haunts My Dreams."
You play the bass, as your father, Charlie Haden, does. How did you end up playing it? I think a lot of people would have done their best to steer away from the instrument that their parents played.
JOSH HADEN, "SHE HAUNTS MY DREAMS": Well, I think I did try, but it didn't work. I tried to play the guitar when I was -- I don't know, 12, 13 years old, and I didn't really connect with it. I think -- I feel even now there's just too many strings on the guitar. I think it's too much for my brain to comprehend. Four strings is much simpler, and the strings are bigger, so they're -- you know, they're more easily accessible.
And, you know, it's actually very mysterious to me why I feel so close to the bass. The only thing I could say is that it must have been just inculcated into my brain at -- from a very early age, listening to my father play bass, you know, watching him go through scales or, you know, writing songs in our old apartment in New York City when I was 1 year old or, you know, very young.
And I think that makes a really lasting impression. I think it made a really lasting impression on me. That's probably why I play bass, I think.
GROSS: I wonder what it was like to grow up hearing Ornette Colman's music, which I imagine you did when you were young. You know, for a lot of people, that jazz group that your father was in was so radical that it was hard to assimilate. But I'm wondering, when you grow up with it, does it seem radical, or just like music?
HADEN: It, well, seemed both, it was both. I mean, I recognized at an early age that Ornette Colman's music was different than anything else, and at the same time, I accepted it as being normal because I heard it so much. And I'm sure to many, many people his music was very revolutionary, but to me his music was some of the first music I ever heard.
Ornette Colman set a standard for me when it as probably -- even probably before I was born he set a standard for me. And so I know that his music is revolutionary. But to me, that's, like, a starting point.
GROSS: When you started listening to your own music, what was it?
HADEN: You mean, when I -- when...
GROSS: When you started buying records and listening to radio stations.
HADEN: Right. My father asked me, "Oh, what do you like?" I think the first thing I wanted was the sound track to "Mission: Impossible."
GROSS: (laughs) The Lalo Schifrin score.
HADEN: Yes, and I still have the first record that I picked out for myself, was -- it was kind of, like, a K-Tel compilation called "Sessions," and it was, like, really commercial '60s pseudo-psychedelic music. But I don't know why I liked it, I just did. I don't know why I liked the sound track to "Mission: Impossible" either. I still like it, though.
GROSS: Yes,, so do I, actually. I love a lot of those adventure and action and spy themes.
GROSS: Do you think you'll ever record with your father?
HADEN: I think so. I -- actually, I know we will. It's just a matter of timing and -- I actually -- The only thing that keeps it from happening is scheduling, and I'm positive that'll happen in the future, sooner than later.
GROSS: What do you think of his vocal on his new CD?
HADEN: I like it. He told -- he kept telling me -- he's told me for years that he can't sing because he had polio when he was a little kid that affected his vocal cords, and, you know, he couldn't sing because of that. And I know that it was just an excuse, because I think his singing sounds fine. It's -- I think it sounds really good, and I'm glad he did it.
GROSS: Well, Josh Haden, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.
HADEN: Thank you.
BIANCULLI: Bassist and singer Josh Haden speaking with Terry Gross. His trio, Spain, has a new CD called "She Haunts My Dreams."
We'll hear more from Josh's father, Charlie Haden, in the second half of the show.
I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.
(AUDIO CLIP, SONG EXCERPT, JOSH HADEN)
BIANCULLI: Coming up, we remember jazz musician Art Farmer, who died Monday at the age of 71, and we continue our conversation with Charlie Haden. On his new CD, "The Art of the Song," he sings for the first time since he was a child, when he sang with his family's country group. He'll tell us why.
BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, back with more of Terry's interview with jazz bassist Charlie Haden.
Since 1986, his group Quartet West has performed music paying tribute to hard-boiled fiction and film noir. The new Quartet West album is "The Art of the Song," and it's the first time Haden has ever sung on one of his CDs.
GROSS: Well, I want to get to your vocal on your new CD. Your new CD is called "The Art of the Song," and you chose two of your favorite singers to do most of the performances, Shirley Horne and Bill Henderson.
But the last track is you singing, and you as a rule don't sing on your CDs. I think this is your first recorded performance outside of the years when you sang with your family when you were a child. Your family had a country group, and you used to sing on the radio.
So tell us the story about how you decided to sing on your own CD.
HADEN: I stopped singing on our show when I was 15. I developed bulbar polio, and it paralyzed my vocal cords. And eventually, you know, I got my vocal cords back, but I lost the range in my voice. And I used to sing every day on our radio show from the time I was 2 until I was 15.
And after that, after that occurrence, I kind of focused all my musical melody energy into my playing. I had just started playing the bass, and playing along with records around where we were living in Springfield, Missouri. And then when I moved to L.A., playing -- you know, seeking out the great musicians.
And I never really thought about singing again after that. And I didn't even sing in the shower. You know, I -- it wasn't that I was afraid to, it was just, like, it was over, you know, for me. And so recently some people have been talking about, you know, You used to sing, how come you don't sing any more? Or sing -- you know, Ruth, my wife, who's a singer, has said, you know, Why don't you sing?
And then actually one day I was on your show a while ago, and we were talking about "Now Is the Hour," and you asked me to sing it. And I was very reluctant, and I couldn't believe that you asked me. And I finally gave in and sang, and you called back later and said that you thought it was great and that I should sing sometime on one of my records. And I said, "Well, thanks for the compliment, Terry, but... "
And, you know, I just got -- it was kind of humorous to me. And I never really took it seriously, until we started planning this record. And I was going through music, and I ran across some of our music from our radio show with my family back in the '40s. And I saw this song called "The Wayfaring Stranger" that my mom used to sing and -- on our show. And I remembered how beautiful it was.
And then I was going through some -- from -- some LPs and CDs, and I found this recording of Jo Stafford singing folk music. And one of the songs on the album was "The Wayfaring Stranger." And I listened to it, and it reminded me of how beautiful the song was.
And so I thought about doing it on the record instrumentally, and then I thought, you know, This isn't a song for Shirley or Bill to sing, but it should really be sung, because the words are so beautiful, because I remember when my mom sang it. And so I said, Well, the only way it could be sung is if I sing it. And I thought, you know, Oh, my goodness, that's not going to work.
And Alan was over, and I played it for him. I said, "What do you think of this?" And he said, "Wow, that is really beautiful." I said, "What would you think if I tried to sing it?" And he said, "Wow," he said, "that'd be different." And I said -- so -- (laughs)
GROSS: (laughs) What do you mean by that?
HADEN: Yes, I said, "Well... " You know, and I even -- I called Jean-Phillipe Allarde (ph), my -- our executive producer, in Paris, and I said, "You know, I might sing on this record." And there was a big silence. And he said -- he said, "Pardon?" I said, "I might sing." And another long silence. "Pardon?" I said...
Anyway, I told Alan, I said, "Write the arrangement as if somebody's going to sing it, and if I don't make it, I'll play it on the bass," you know. And so he wrote the arrangement. I didn't practice the song -- you know, a couple of times, you know, I was a little nervous, I -- around the house, I kind of sang the melody at home, just to go through it, just to make sure that I could actually sing, you know.
And I didn't want today to it too much, because, you know, I didn't want to get my mind set, and, like, Oh, I'm a singer, and I've got to sing this like a singer, and it's got to be perfect. Because I really believe singers -- and that's why I love Shirley Horne and Bill Henderson so much, is that they sing the way they speak. I mean, when they stop speaking and start to sing, they don't change their voice or any -- the way they say their words or anything about what they're doing in any way. They just -- it's just natural and honest. And that's why they -- they're such great singers.
And, you know, a lot of singers now, and even in the past, as soon as they began to sing, they -- everything changes. The -- and it's all of a sudden somebody else, you know. And so I didn't want to make myself nervous.
So we got into the studio, and I just got up to the microphone, and they started to play it, and I sang. And Shirley Horne came in to me and she said, "You got to put this on the record." And I said, "Are you really serious?" She said, "Yes." And she said, "Some of those string players out there are in tears." I said -- (laughs) "Well, that's probably because it's so bad," you know, she...
HADEN: So I put it on the record, and I hope people like it. It's not doing it as a singer, it's doing it to tell a story of, you know, where I come from, and...
GROSS: Well, I really love this, and I'm so glad that you went through with singing it. And listening to it, I was wondering, you know, knowing that you knew this song as a kid and that your mother sang it, when you were a child, what did the words mean to you? These -- this song is just filled with metaphors about death, you know, crossing over the River Jordan, "I'm going home to see my mother, I'm going home to see my father."
Did -- what did you get about that, and what did... was it a frightening song to you, thinking about death, or what?
HADEN: No, actually it was a very soothing song. It's just the opposite, I mean, it's a song about life. I remember a very funny thing that my mom told me once when I was 4 years old. She was working around our -- we lived on a farm outside Springfield, Missouri. And she was working around the house, and all of a sudden she heard me screaming in the living room. And she thought, you know, I'd done -- something horrible had happened to me. She ran in the living room, she said, "Charlie, what's wrong?" And I looked up at her, and I said, "I'm going to die!"
HADEN: And she said, "What in the world are you talking about?" And she said, "You're thinking about... " She said, "You don't have... " She was, like, cracking up, you know. So I always had this deep need for the beauty of life, the reason for life, and the preciousness of life, you know, and how precious every moment is that we're alive, and we should really do everything that we can to enhance this life that we have and this planet that we live on.
And this song just evokes that to me.
GROSS: What happened to you that day? What were you thinking about that made you think, I'm going to die?
HADEN: I was thinking -- yes, I was thinking -- I think somebody close to us had just died, and they had a funeral. And I was thinking about, Oh, God, some day that's going to happen to me, you know, and here I am 4 years old, and I start screaming. (laughs)
GROSS: There's a picture of you as a child performing -- well, in a picture with your family from the days that you performed, and you look really young in it, maybe 4 years old, 5 years old. And you're wearing, like, a red neckerchief and cowboy boots. Was that part of your image on stage?
HADEN: Back then, they called me Cowboy Charlie, and I didn't -- you know, always wear a cowboy suit, but for that picture, I -- I mean, we went to the studio every day, and I just wore everyday clothes. But that was a special posed picture. But we were on different shows. My parents were on the Grand Ole Opry. That was before I was born. And then later on, we did a network show from Springfield called "Corn's A-Crackin'," where all of the Nashville people came up to Springfield and appeared on the show.
And we got to know real close the Carter family, and Avery Acuff (ph) and people like that were our friends. And I feel very lucky that I was able to know all those great musicians. It really was a big influence on my musical life.
But now, I remember what I said when my mother -- you know, when my mother came running into -- What I said was, "I don't want to die." (laughs)
HADEN: It wasn't that "I'm dying," I said, "I don't want to die." And she said, "Jesus, Charlie!" Anyway.
GROSS: Well, before we hear "Poor Wayfaring Stranger," I'm wondering if you think you'll be performing this song in front of audiences.
HADEN: "The Wayfaring Stranger"?
HADEN: I -- that's the first time I've thought of it. I really don't -- I don't know, I...
GROSS: Are you shy about it? Shy about singing in a way that you're not about playing bass?
HADEN: Probably, because I don't -- that's the first time I sang in -- I've sung in, like, 45 years, so I'm very shy about it. And I always want to do everything the best I can possibly do. And I play every day, you know, but I don't sing every day. So that would go into my feelings about it.
GROSS: Right. Well, I do hope you sing more.
HADEN: Oh, thank you.
GROSS: And I want to thank you for talking with us. And why don't we end with the recording of "The Wayfaring Stranger" from your new CD, "The Art of Song." And my guest has been Charlie Haden.
Thank you, Charlie.
HADEN: Thanks, Terry.
(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "THE WAYFARING STRANGER," CHARLIE HADEN)
BIANCULLI: Charlie Haden from his new CD with the Quartet West, called "The Art of the Song."
Coming up, we remember jazz musician Art Farmer.
This is FRESH AIR.
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Dateline: David Bianculli, Philadelphia, PA; Terry Gross
Guest: Charlie Haden, Josh Haden
High: Jazz bassist Charlie Haden discusses his newest release, with his Quartet West, "The Art of The Song." Charlie's son, bassist and singer Josh Haden, discusses his trio Spain and their new album "She Haunts My Dreams."
Spec: Music Industry; Charlie Haden; Josh Haden
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Charlie and Josh Haden: Father and Son Musicians
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