I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in “Cheers & Jeers”. For example …..
SEPARATED at BIRTH – incoming Bank of England governor (and Canadian native) Mark Carney and film star George Clooney.
OK, you’ve been warned – here is this week’s
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES – an exhibition about the development of the Hudson River School is at the Albany, New York Institute of History & Art through August 18th.
THEATRE NOTES – The 1949 Oscar-winning film The Third Man – based on a screenplay by Graham Greene that starred Orson Welles – is to be made into a musical in Vienna, Austria.
BRAIN TEASER – try this Quiz of the Week’s News from the BBC.
THE OTHER NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary with a look at The Night James Brown Saved Boston – with help from two elected officials – some forty-five years ago.
LADIES and GENTLEMEN – I present to you …… The Hoff ….
HAIL and FAREWELL to Dr. Amar Bose – the founder of the Bose Corporation, whose Wave Radio and other products made him one of America’s wealthiest men – who has died at the age of 83. Following in the footsteps of the first generation of stereo speaker pioneers (J.B. Lansing, Paul Klipsch, Rudy Bozak, Vincent Salmon of Jensen, Henry Kloss of KLH and Advent, and Edgar Villchur of Acoustic Research) – Dr. Bose was the best of his generation.
And he kept his company private; never wishing to sell-out to those who would milk his firm’s engineering strengths. One way he did so was donating to MIT – his alma mater – the bulk of his stock two years ago, to keep the firm independent.
FRANCE’S PARLIAMENT has approved a bill forcing restaurants to label as home-made – ‘fait maison’ – only dishes prepared from raw ingredients in their kitchen, rather than buying pre-cooked meals from outside, microwaving and passing them off as freshly made.
LANGUAGE NOTES – while Germany has never been as keen to ban foreign words from its language as has France, the use in commercials of Denglisch – Anglicisms that many Germans do not understand – is to be discouraged by Germany’s transport minister.
SATURDAY’s CHILD is the late Alfie the Cat – a kitteh who comforted numerous patients for years at a New Zealand spinal clinic – who was euthanized at the age of nineteen, after suffering kidney failure.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO the city of Vienna, Austria was home – within one square mile of each other – to the following residents: Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Marshal Tito, Sigmund Freud and Josef Stalin.
WHILE I THINK it’s pretty stupid, I gotta admire the new Sy-Fy television sensation’s trailer:
Sharks. Tornado. Sharknado. ‘Nuff said.
SEPARATED at BIRTH – two super-models: Canadian-born Linda Evangelista and Ukranian-born Milla Jovovich.
…… and finally, for a song of the week ………………………………. actually, this is the story of the family of acoustic bassist Charlie Haden who has performed avant-garde jazz, mainstream jazz, backed-up many a singer and performed left-wing music (even under threat of detention) – who returned to his roots in 2008 by recording a country/bluegrass album, reflecting the singing family he grew up in.
What’s more, his four children – all accomplished indie rockers themselves – joined him in this recording as well. It’s a cliché but Charlie Haden …… has indeed come full-circle.
Shenandoah, Iowa may not be the first place you associate with avant-garde jazz …… but he was part of the Haden Family which sang at the Grand Ole Opry, toured with the Carter Family and performed at revival meetings and on the radio (Charlie first doing so at age 22 months). But after growing up in Missouri, he contracted a mild case of bulbar polio in his teens, which affected his vocal chords and ended his singing career though he played bass on the TV show Ozark Jubilee hosted by country musician Red Foley.
But upon hearing modern jazz legend Charlie Parker – Haden decided at age 18 to turn down a scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory, instead going to the Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles to study jazz. His father was less than happy, but his mother saw him off at the Greyhound bus station.
He found work with saxophonist Art Pepper and pianist Paul Bley and then in 1957 he heard the avant-garde saxophonist Ornette Coleman sit in with another band … who was told to stop playing his free improvisation fairly quickly and left the club. But Haden thought “the whole room lit up for me; it was that brilliant” and located Coleman the next day. In 1959, they moved (along with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins) to New York and landed a recording contract.
To say that albums such as Change of the Century or The Shape of Jazz to Come and This is Our Music were “out there” – well, the reaction from across the music world was raucous. As the All-Music Guide’s Scott Yanow wrote, opinions were divided whether Coleman was a genius or a fraud. But over the few years, they helped re-define modern jazz, with Haden’s work on Ramblin’ and “Lonely Lady” borrowing from his country roots – in fact, the Englishman Ian Dury said that his sone “Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll” came from Charlie Haden’s ‘Ramblin’ bass lines.
Charlie Haden eventually formed his own Liberation Music Orchestra – along with pianist Carla Bley – and this on-and-off band still continues to perform occasionally (I saw them at Dartmouth College just a few years back). They have performed works about the Spanish Civil War (Ballad of the Fallen) plus Vietnam and apartheid.
In 1971, after Haden’s wife gave birth to triplet daughters, Haden agreed to join a tour with Ornette that had Portugal as its last stop. Charlie Haden had a dislike for the military dictatorship in power back then, and didn’t want to perform there. But Coleman persisted, and Haden decided to dedicate Song for Ché to the rebels fighting the Portuguese military dictatorship (in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau) publicly on-stage.
And while several young people applauded, he was detained by the Portuguese authorities in prison (despite the song being purely instrumental). Haden was freed only when Richard Nixon’s cultural attaché (against their better wishes) decided getting Haden out was easier than having the music world embarrass the host nation (although he says the FBI later questioned him about it). Charlie Haden told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now that years later – after the fall of the junta – he was invited back, receiving a warm welcome.
Charlie Haden went on to perform with a number of top-notch musicians, and founded the CalArts Jazz Program in Valencia, California. Since the mid-1980’s, he has performed most often with his Quartet West – a more mainstream jazz outfit with veteran saxophonist Ernie Watts (who has toured with the Rolling Stones).
In more recent years, he performed on Abbey Lincoln’s 1991 You Gotta Pay the Band with Stan Getz – with the song Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams becoming my favorite ballad of the decade. He also recorded with former Cream drummer Ginger Baker on two jazz/rock albums (with Bill Frisell on guitar) in the mid-1990’s.
And after seeing banners in Europe with an inscription after the invasion of Iraq, Haden and the Liberation Orchestra recorded a world music album (as Haden is quick to point out, all four Liberation Music Orchestra recordings were made under Republican administrations). The title was a common theme on this site: Not in Our Name – with versions of “America the Beautiful”, the African National Congress anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the song “This is Not America” – written by the unlikely songwriting team of Pat Metheny and … David Bowie.
Yet it wouldn’t be accurate to say that his 2008 family album was his first foray into his roots. In 1997, along with long-time guitarist friend Pat Metheny, they recorded the Americana-flavored duo album Beyond the Missouri Sky – Metheny being a native, and Haden having come-of-age there – that brought Charlie Haden a Grammy Award.
Along the way, Haden and his wife Ruth Cameron raised their four children. His son Josh (last photo) fronts an indie-rock band Spain, and his three triplet daughters (Tanya, Rachel and Petra, second photo L-to-R) are also musicians.
Tanya is a cellist and is married to the actor Jack Black. Rachel is a pianist who performed in the 1990’s band That Dog along with sister Petra. And violinist Petra has already made her mark in music with a 2005 a capella version of a landmark album by The Who: Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out earned praise from Pete Townshend himself: “I felt like I’d received something better than a Grammy”.
Over the past three years, Charlie has recorded a number of albums – one of which was with his Quartet West entitled Sophisticated Ladies featuring several female guest vocalists … one of which is the opera singer Renée Fleming who began her career as a jazz singer and has recently revisited the genre.
Charlie Haden will turn age 72 next month, was named as a NEA Jazz Master in 2012 and just this past February: received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is not on tour presently, but whatever music he’s making (and with whomever): see him if he plays in your town.
Mark Fain (the bassist for Ricky Skaggs) told Charlie Haden that – if he ever wanted to make a country/bluegrass album – to please do so at Ricky’s studio in Nashville. Well, in 2008 he did: with Rambling Boy the result, and with his four children assisting.
It has an all-star cast: Bruce Hornsby, Roseann Cash, Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Béla Fleck on banjo and, of course, Ricky Skaggs. The album is a treasure trove of Americana, country and bluegrass: at this link you can watch a short video on the making of the album. Charlie’s voice is still weak, but he closes the album singing O Shenandoah as a labor-of-love.
My favorite is one that Charlie Haden wrote as an instrumental: “Spiritual” which he played on albums with both Ginger Baker as well as Pat Metheny. His son Josh wrote lyrics for it (which Johnny Cash performed). And at this link you can hear the family perform it live.
Jesus, I don’t want to die alone
Jesus, oh Jesus, I don’t want to die alone
My love wasn’t true
Now all I have is you
Jesus, oh Jesus, I don’t want to die alone
Jesus, if you hear my last breath
Don’t leave me here
Left to die a lonely death
I know I have sinned
But Lord I’m suffering
Jesus, oh Jesus, if you hear
My last breath
All my troubles
All my pain
Will leave me