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Legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden dead at 76

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 3:03 PM EDT, Sun July 13, 2014
Charlie Haden, pictured here in 2005, has died at age 76.
Charlie Haden, pictured here in 2005, has died at age 76.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Charlie Haden first performed as a yodeling toddler with his family's country band
  • Haden is known as a founding father of free jazz
  • He played bass on hundreds of recordings with the biggest jazz legends

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Grammy-winning jazz bassist Charlie Haden, whose music career spanned seven decades and several genres, died Friday, his publicist said Sunday. He was 76.

Haden, who first performed as a yodeling toddler with his family's country band in the 1930s, played on hundreds of recordings with the biggest jazz legends.

His wife and four children were with him as his life ended following a long illness, ECM Records spokeswoman Tina Pelikan said.

Haden, a sideman in saxophonist Ornette Coleman's band in the 1960s, is known as a founding father of free jazz. He also led his own Liberation Music Orchestra and the Charlie Haden Quartet West.

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The National Endowment for the Arts named Haden a "jazz master" in 2012 for his long career as a musician, composer, bandleader, educator, producer and activist.

"Lyrical and expressive on the bass, he embraced a variety of musical genres, ranging from jazz to country to world music," the NEA's bio of Haden said.

Haden was just 22 months old when he first sang on his parents' country-western radio show. He took up the bass as a teenager before moving from his native Iowa to Los Angeles in 1957, the NEA bio said.

His work on the influential recordings with Coleman "helped move the bassist from an accompanying position to one of innovation and more direct improvisatory participation," the bio said.

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CNN's David Daniel contributed to this report.

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