Charlie Haden founded the CalArts Jazz Program in 1982. As a vital part of a jazz revolution begun by his mentor Ornette Coleman, "Haden revolutionized the harmonic concept of bass playing in jazz. He was the first bassist who consistently avoided playing changes or following pre-established harmonic schemes but instead created a solid harmonic foundation out of the passage of independent melodies." (Jochim Berendt, The Jazz Book)
He has contributed his virtuosity to many of the most compelling records in jazz and since 1958 has recorded many hundreds of albums with numerous innovative musicians including John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Hank Jones, Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Michael Brecker, Brad Mehldau, John Mclaughlin, Pat Metheny and many others.
Today he continues to lead his own groups, the renowned Liberation Music Orchestra and Quartet West among others, communicating his deep, rich, resonant sound which reflects a profound sensibility to music and to life. He received a Guggenhein Fellowship for composition (1970), is a three-time NEA recipient for composition, a three-time Grammy Award winner (1997, 2001, 2004) and has received multiple international awards including the Grand Prix Charles Cros (the French equivalent of the Grammy) as well as Japan's Gold Disc Award from the magazine Swing Journal.
Haden's vision extends beyond category to encompass music from all genres and all parts of the world. He has performed and recorded with international greats such as Egberto Gismonti from Brazil, Carlos Paredes from Portugal, Dino Saluzzi from Argentina, Gonzalo Rubalcaba from Cuba, as well as recorded with eclectic musicians such as Beck, Ringo Starr, Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Lee Jones to name a few. The British classical composer Gavin Bryars composed a piece for him entitled, "By the Vaar" which Haden recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by James Judd.
Swiss film director Reto Caduff released a documentary film about the Haden’s life named Charlie Haden:Rambling Boy in 2009. It was shown with much success at many film festivals both internationally and in the U.S. and Canada including the 2009 Telluride and Vancouver International Film Festivals.
Haden recently recorded three albums which are all currently among the top one hundred bestsellers on the jazz chart: namely "Jasmine" on ECM Records, a duet album with former long-time collaborator Keith Jarrett; "Sophisticated Ladies" on Emarcy/Decca Records with Quartet West and strings arranged by Alan Broadbent featuring the vocalists Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renee Fleming, Ruth Cameron, a further exploration of little known gems of the American Songbook with Quartet West and contemporary vocalists; and "Live at Birdland" on ECM Records with Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau and Paul Motian.
Haden has just recently been honored with International Society of Bassists' 2011 Special Recognition Award for Jazz Performance.
The NEA has just announced that Charlie Haden will be honored with the 2012 NEA JAZZ MASTER AWARD, the nation’s highest honor in jazz, which will be given to him and four other honorees at a ceremony in Lincoln Center, NYC, in January 2012.