Weird. Charlie Haden just liked my retweet. And I don’t mean a second note on a piccolo. Apparently where ever he is, they have Twitter. Heaven, Heck, New Jersey, who knows? Charlie is there tweeting and retweeting and thrumming Rambling on the bass.
(Skip ahead to 4:40 and it’s sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.)
I never attended the Grammy main event—hated filling out press pass forms—but they begged me to attend the jazz Grammys every year. I went several times. My favorite Grammy memory comes from the first one I attended, when it was still at the Biltmore, and is a helluva story, but I promised myself never to tell it till the parties involved are dead. They aren’t, so we’ll wait. My worst Grammy moment was the last one I attended, and which I had done only because Charlie Haden was being given a lifetime achievement award. Not that anyone in the place had a clue who Charlie Haden was. I’d never seen any of these people in the Nokia anywhere, I had no idea who they all were. I didn’t even know who the other press were. There was no evidence of jazz people there at all. They were there, the jazz stars, but tucked away in the VIP room, hanging with Neil Portnow as a deejay spun hip hop and gorgeous waitresses brought them complimentary drinks. None of them–not Portnow nor the big name jazz stars–were down in the main room when the Lifetime Achievement Award was being given. That moment comes, and Charlie Haden is brought out on stage for his award. He accepts, then is bum rushed off the stage as he is saying a few words of thanks to make way for some terrible smoove R&B act. It was ugly, disrespectful and laid bare the disdain of Grammy machine for real music. It was so goddam insulting I couldn’t stand breathing that air another minute and split instantly and went to a little jazz dive. Got lost in a saxophone solo. I think I trashed the ceremony in my next column. I went from having no use for the Grammys to actively hating them.
I saw Charlie Haden at the Redcat a couple weeks ago–just blocks away from the Nokia and LA Live but a whole different universe–and the respect and love that audience had for him was overwhelming. I kept thinking back to that moment at the Grammys and relishing its denouement at the Redcat. It was a beautiful, bittersweet night.
Ya know, it’s a shame…the Jazz Grammys were the real deal a generation ago. Time can be cruel.
Saw Charlie Haden at REDCAT tonight….his last show ever, I’m told. What a solo to go out on, Blue in Green, all that emotion, that beauty, not a note wasted, not a note that didn’t grab us, it was nearly overwhelming. We let the last thrum fade into the air before bursting into applause. It was an oddly restrained applause, an overcome applause, exhausted applause. Goodbye class, he said, smiling, laughing–he’d laughed all night, laughing and joking and being funny as hell–and was nearly overcome once, remembering Scott LeFaro (they’d been discussing Blue in Green, Bill Evans had said it was his, LeFaro said it was so beautiful it didn’t matter) and he looked about to cry at the thought (after laughing that LeFaro wouldn’t let him date his kid sister)…then after that incredible take on Blue in Green he told the audience that Jim Hall was dead–they gasped–and he nearly fell apart. All this emotion, raw grief, bewilderment at how such talent could just up and disappear like that….we of course were all wondering the same thing. But he caught himself, made another joke, laughed, dismissed us with a whisper–that’s all the polio has left him with, a whisper–and then he smiled. Just smiled. Some smiles you remember, some in fact you’ll never forget. Not ever.