Tag Archives: obituaries

Digressions: Charlie Haden’s virtual wake

19 Jul

Charlie Haden (photo by Geert Vandepoele)

Charlie Haden (photo by Geert Vandepoele)

Veteran jazz bass player Charlie Haden died on July 11th, following a long, committed musical life. From his key playing with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett to his role as co-leader and inspirer in the Liberation Orchestra, his work encompassed spirituality, some wonderful music, and a strong political conscience which led him to side with and champion oppressed people throughout the world. Along the way, he inspired, entertained and encouraged musicians and audiences alike.

Plenty is being written about Charlie this week – among this, Ethan Iverson’s ‘Do The Math‘ blog  has published ‘Liberation Chorus’, a collection of reflections and reminiscences from various jazz musicians on Charlie’s life and passing. Here are some of my favourite contributions from this virtual wake, but please head over to ‘Do The Math’ and read the whole thing.

From Django Bates:

When I first heard Charlie Haden (on ‘Survivors’ Suite’ – ECM 1085), I imagined his bass must’ve been constructed without glue or joints, carved from one single tree: the tallest, most awe-inspiring tree from the world’s oldest forest. It came as no surprise then to discover as I heard more, that every note Charlie chose became the root of the music, nourishing the musicians and listeners, and connecting the music to the earth. R.I.P.

From Joey Baron:

Whether live trio gigs with Lew Tabackin, or recording with Fred Hersch or John Scofield or David Sanborn, or live with his own Quartet West, I noticed that Charlie always played for keeps. He seemed to go to this very deep place when playing. His approach to ballad playing opened up a whole world of fun and beauty that is still relatively unexplored.

I remember he called me to sub in the Quartet West for Lawrence Marable on a few gigs in upstate NY. The plane was a puddle jumper with no chance to transport the bass. At sound check Charlie unpacked the bass that was provided for him. He spent some time tuning and adjusting the instrument. I had sat down on the stage to wait until he finished before doing drum surgery. There was no one else around. I don’t think he knew i was there…

Anyhow after tuning up he continued to play and this beautiful heart-wrenching music was pouring out of him. He would hint at an Ornette Coleman head and it would keep moving forward. For about 15 minutes he kept unfolding melodies. What a sound! What a feeling!! The earth moved!!! What a moment to witness…. a true artist doing what he loved best.

When he finished, I quietly stood up and said, “Thank you, Charlie.”

He replied, shaking his head: “Man… this bass is a real dog.”

In retrospect I’m sure he was right, but I never heard a dog tell such stories. Thank you, Charlie.

From Chris Cheek:

Charlie’s sound was the embodiment of sincerity and humility. His melodies were essential, unpredictable and like anchors that took the listener to beautiful and mysterious depths. He was a gentle and determined presence. His music reflected his humanity and above all, expressed a profound love and gratitude.

One of the last times I heard him, he was playing at Birdland in New York with Paul, Brad Mehldau and Lee Konitz. Again, it was one of those indescribable experiences that was both disorientating and reassuring. After the set, Charlie came off the stage, went up to Paul who was sitting at the bar, and said, “Man, I didn’t know what was goin’ on up there!” They both laughed…

And finally, from Joshua Redman:

One of the things Charlie talked about all the time was the importance of beauty in music — or perhaps more essentially, the power, the potential, and the necessity of music to create and preserve beauty in this world. In fact, Charlie spoke so often on this subject that I think some of us at times took it for granted — that we may not always have thoroughly marked the seriousness and sincerity of his words. Perhaps occasionally we even risked hearing it as a bit of a cliche.

But it wasn’t a cliche. It was Charlie’s truth. It was The Truth. And Charlie embodied, testified to that truth every time he picked up that bass. His playing was one of the fullest, most genuine expressions of beauty in jazz — exquisite lyricism; empathic harmony; boundless flexibility born out of improvisational generosity and intimacy; a selfless, embracing, huge-hearted groove.

Charlie had the biggest ears. He heard everything. He was right there with you every step of the way. And he took what he heard and helped you try to make something lovely out of it. He helped us chart a path toward the sublime. And it is maybe, just maybe, possible that every single note Charlie ever played was — through its own subtle force, its deceptively simple profundity — beautiful.

Charlie Haden has now left our world. But he hasn’t left us. For he leaves behind enough beauty to sustain us through this world, and the next.

R.I.P. Charlie.

Charlie Haden online:
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A fabulous noise, suddenly cut off – R.I.P. Floky (1991-2013)

9 Dec

Late last week I heard that Florent “Floky” Pevee, the singer and guitarist with the post-hardcore punk band Kabul Golf Club (and bass player for The Rott Childs) has died. Damn. That jolts… He was 22 years old, a little over half my own age.

Floky - in his element. (photo source unknown)

Floky – in his element. (photo source unknown)

Floky died in the Flanders town of Hasselt, where he lived and where he studied and played music. According to this report he’d attended a party on the night of November 28th and was making his way home, on his own, during the dawn hours of November 29th. At some time between 5am and 6am, Floky was seen on the ring road, lying prone in the bus lane. It’s not clear whether he’d passed out while crossing the road, or whether he’d been knocked unconscious by an earlier collision with a vehicle. For a while, Floky’s battered luck held (two successive motorists managed to swerve around him) but at around 6am, his body was struck and crushed by a bus. He died on the spot shortly afterwards.

What a waste. What a terrible waste.

On Tuesday this week Floky was buried in Tongeren, his mother’s town. Mourned by his family and girlfriend, he’s also survived by the musicians who played with him and the habitues of Flanders punk scene who worked with him, loved him and screamed along with him, all of whom are thunderstruck at his loss. Kabul Golf Club have stated that the band died with him, and the surviving members have asked everyone who wrote about KGC (including myself) to post up the band’s Demon Days video as a tribute and farewell. Here it is – a blitzing Floky-fuelled chunk of energy, with the man himself at full yell.

There should be more to celebrating him than that… but I can’t provide the account which I’m sure Floky deserves. Nor can I claim the right to raise his memorial. My own contact with him was fleeting. We lived in different countries; we ran with different packs; we were separated by a generation. Truth be told, we never actually met or spoke. Everything that passed between us is contained in and reduced to the sound of one blindingly good Kabul Golf Club EP, which I reviewed last year. (If any of you wants a free copy of that, the band will send you one in memory of Floky while stocks last – just email them with your postal address.)

Isn’t that often the way, though? Much of the music that suddenly and unexpectedly inspires us comes from strangers, or leaks around doors. It used to ambush us in record stores (when those were still common). Now it sideswipes us on podcasts when we were listening out for something else; or arrives unexpectedly into our dropboxes with a cheery tag and a picture of elsewhere.

Although I do cover punk in ‘Misfit City’ sometimes, I can’t claim to be a natural punk fan. I like the impetus, I like the D.I.Y. aesthetic, I appreciate the politics, but I often find the music itself reductive; something I’m happier to read about than to experience. Floky’s work with KGC was different – a screaming, shattered honeycomb of roaring, gibbering guitars; a voice which stayed in that push-up, top-of-the-throat realm of hardcore bellowing but which had its own extra tones and colours (as I put it back then “a tinge of despairing vertigo… the horrified yell of a man falling off the sun.”) More to the point, the music woke me up again to the punch and promise brewing in punk rock: the qualities I’d always wanted to find and for which I was so often disappointed.

To this day, that Kabul Golf Club review is one of the most-read posts in ‘Misfit City’. I suspect that this is mostly to do with the regard in which Floky and KGC were held. They were starters; they were obscure; they had all the makings of something special. I wrote about them with guarded enthusiasm which had turned to genuine enthusiasm by the end of the review. I was looking forward to seeing what they’d come up with next. I’m surprised by how saddened I am that I’ll never get to hear it.

Much separates me from Floky and his life, but at least we’re linked by that brief spasm of electricity and enthusiasm. I’ve tried and failed to come up with anything really profound in this post, so instead, this week, I’ll pop an eardrum or two listening to his music. Here’s my own favourite burst of KGC – it’s Minus 45, a rattling pounce of vigour and dread and guitars which revel at being jammed through the mangle.

I just wanted to say that this is how, in my own small way, I’ll remember Floky. If we’ve got to let go of someone like him, let’s do it the right way – let’s call up his peak, let him crest it and let him fly. And any time when we want to set him flying again, we can pick up the disc, or cue the file, and the peak will still be there.

Kabul Golf Club online:
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Swoon. /swo͞on/ A verb. To be emotionally affected by someone or something that one admires; become ecstatic. Here are some people and things that make me swoon. #swoon #swoonage

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