Bassist Charlie Haden, RIP

I was deeply saddened to learn of jazz bassist Charlie Haden’s passing (at age 76) in today’s newspapers. While he is rightly known for his ground-breaking work in the so-called Free Jazz Movement with Ornette Coleman and others, he holds a special place in my heart for his collaboration with pianist Hank Jones on a 1995 instrumental release called Steal Away – Spirituals, Hymns & Folk Songs. It’s one of my favorite albums. If you boil the category down to “soft jazz that inspires one to be alone with his/her thoughts”… it’s #1 for me.

The concept for the album is simple enough. Haden and Jones decided to do a set of stripped down instrumentals where they would offer their minimalist take on the classic Negro Spirituals of old, songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – “Go Down Moses” – “We Shall Overcome” and the title track. It’s some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve ever heard. The opening track, “It’s Me, O Lord (Standin’ in the Need of Prayer)” grabs me every time.

Shakespeare famously wrote, “First, we kill all the lawyers.” I don’t know about that, but in my world, we give the musicians eternal life. Thanks, Charlie. Your music lives.

Onward, Malcolm