Charlie Haden, a key jazz musician of the modern age, was on the ground floor of the free jazz and avant-garde movement before gaining a wider audience as a keeper of the bop flame. He was born into a musical family and started yodeling as a toddler. After a bout with polio weakened Haden's vocal chords, he switched over to the bass.
Haden was already into jazz when he moved to Los Angeles in 1957 and started playing with such West Coast stars as Art Pepper before he became the bassist in Ornette Coleman's revolutionary free jazz band. Haden continued paving the way for avant-garde jazz, playing long stints with Keith Jarrett, Dewey Redman and drummer Paul Motian. He also trailblazed with his Liberation Music Orchestra. By the late '80s he had formed Quartet West with Kiwi pianist and arranger Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts (sax) and Lawrence Marable (drums). The group's second Verve album, 1991's Haunted Heart, was Haden's first mainstream hit and reintroduced him as a master of ballads and romantic material. He kept recording with Quartet West while cutting solo sets. In 2008, he recorded Friends & Family: Rambling Boy, a pitch-perfect look back at the folk music of his youth.