Charlie Haden

As a member of saxophonist Ornette Coleman's early bands, bassist Charlie Haden became known as one of free jazz's founding fathers. Haden has never settled into any of jazz's many stylistic niches, however. Certainly he's played his share of dissonant music -- in the '60 and '70s, as a sideman with Coleman and Keith Jarrett, and as a leader of the Liberation Music Orchestra, for instance -- but for the most part, he seems drawn to consonance. Witness his trio with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and guitarist Egberto Gismonti, whose ECM album Silence epitomized a profoundly lyrical and harmonically simple aesthetic, or his duo with guitarist Pat Metheny, which has as much to do with American folk traditions as with jazz. There's a soulful reserve to Haden's art. Never does he play two notes when one (or none) will do. Not a flashy player along the lines of a Scott LaFaro (who also played with Coleman), Haden's facility may be limited, but his sound and intensity of expression are as deep as any jazz bassist's. Rather than concentrate on speed and agility, Haden subtly explores his instrument's timbral possibilities with a sure hand and sensitive ear.