Five musical reasons to see Charlie Haden at REDCAT Tuesday


You can’t talk about modern jazz without talking about Charlie Haden.

The bassist who forged a woodsy backbone for groundbreaking recordings with Ornette Coleman and later went on to found the jazz program at CalArts, Haden has been in poor health since the onset of post-polio syndrome in 2010 -- a disease that first struck him at 15 years old.

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As a result, Haden hasn’t performed in public since 2011, but Tuesday night he conducts an ensemble of CalArts musicians through pieces from his invigorating Liberation Music Orchestra, a fiery venture into the politically charged side of the avant garde jazz the bassist formed in 1969. To whet your appetite, here’s a selection of recordings to remind us what we’ve been missing in Haden’s absence from the bandstand.

“Lonely Woman,” with Ornette Coleman (1959): What was so controversial years ago simply sounds like unmistakable yearning beauty today, and it all begins with an elastic bass line from Haden, who stakes guideposts along each turn of Coleman’s melody. Other people would hold down the bottom end for Coleman, but no one complemented his explorations like Haden.

“Song for Che,” Liberation Music Orchestra (1969): This passionate piece not only boasts a lineup that includes Don Cherry and Paul Motian, it also landed him in jail. While touring with Coleman in Portugal, Haden dedicated the song to anti-colonial forces in Africa, proving his taste for revolution was not limited to music.

“De Drums” with Keith Jarrett, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian (1973): Part of an inventive period for Jarrett with his so-called “American Quartet,” this piece features an almost trance-like drive from Haden before things seamlessly drop into a new gear and turn back again. The song -- and Haden -- never stops pushing forward.

“Spiritual,” Charlie Haden Family & Friends (2008): Part of an album-length dip into the lush Americana at Haden’s roots, this recording was a family affair with appearances by Haden’s children, who essentially constitute an L.A. musical dynasty. Haden’s son Josh (from the band Spain) originally wrote the piece and delivers an achingly delicate vocal.

“Where Can I Go Without You,” with Keith Jarrett (2010): Taken from the intimate piano-and-bass duet “Jasmine,” this song is just a sample of the record’s sympathetic exploration of beauty. Take special note of Haden’s melancholy solo on Peggy Lee’s swooning ballad.

Charlie Haden with the CalArts Liberation Orchestra, REDCAT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. Tues., 8:30 p.m. $20


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Twitter: @chrisbarton