Charlie Haden was the master of the one note. In music, for me, the ability to make one note count is one of the hardest things out there. More notes can be cool, fewer notes can be great, lots of notes can even work sometimes, but one note is the high diving board of improvisation. Nail it and it sings, shouts and prances about, does a subtle twist and lands with barely a splash. Hit it in the wrong place, the wrong time, or the wrong anything and you belly flop for all to see and hear. What could be simple and beautiful and transcendent quickly becomes flaccid and inert, or even worse, obvious.
Every time I saw Charlie Haden play he could hit that note. That one note
that rang out of his bass and angled body. That one perfectly formed, perfectly chosen and played note that closed the jar on the song or opened up the skies on a solo. He could launch from that note in many different directions, or come back to it and land in a blizzard. He was a musician of rare talents and intense curiosity. Listening to him opened my ears and mind to ideas I’d never considered, or even knew were there. His path and life are a mirror and a perfect portrait of jazz in the modern age. His music was wildly varied, inventive and always sounded exactly like him. I will miss seeing him hit that note, but I can still hear it.
--Dan Miller is a guitarist for They Might Be Giants.
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