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Charlie Haden Remembered

All of us at Serious were saddened to hear that Charlie Haden had lost his battle with a prolonged three years of falling health.  One of the defining figures in jazz since the 50s, his career ranged from the radical experimentation of the original Ornette Coleman Quartet in the late fifties, to his explorations of West Coast noir with the wonderful Quartet West, and the Liberation Music Orchestra, where Charlie’s profound belief in a better world manifested in Carla Bley’s evocative arrangements of songs of revolution, yearning and a demand for political change. Indeed, the last two bands formed the basis of a memorable residency at the Barbican in 2011, where he played two concerts of complete and breathtaking contrast – regrettably to be his last in the this country, and not far from being his last anywhere in the world.

Charlie was part of the life of Serious for the very beginnings of the company back in the 80s, but even before then, I’d got to know him as a complex and passionate man, with a devastating sense of humour who could tell jokes with the timing of the great comedians.  First through a concert by Old and New Dreams, the quartet of old Ornette hands that brought together Charlie, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and the irrepressible swing of New Orleans drummer Ed Blackwell; and then by road managing three European tours of the Liberation Music Orchestra, the first of which included recording the memorable Ballad of the Fallen for ECM – a roller coaster of a ride that produced some of the finest musical energy that I’ve experienced, and some long-standing friendships. Often under very unexpected circumstances… 

In the early days of Serious, Charlie was a featured artist at the Camden Jazz Week – the precursor to today’s EFG London Jazz Festival – in 1987, where he collaborated with composer Gavin Bryars and the Balanescu Quartet.  We produced concerts and a Contemporary Music Network tour with his consummate trio with Geri Allen and Paul Motian, and, later, his duet with Pat Metheny – the collaboration that recorded a landmark piece of chamber Americana, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories), where Charlie’s childhood background as a member of his family country band re-emerged to extraordinary effect.  And re-emerged again when he recorded Rambling Boy and an accompanying biographical film, an album of country songs with his own hugely talented family – both well worth checking out. 

In recent years, Charlie played some terrific London concerts with Quartet West, and was a featured artist at Ornette Coleman’s Meltdown, where we worked with him  to form an Anglo-American Liberation Music Orchestra which included some never-to-be-forgotten moments – the very rare appearance of Robert Wyatt to sing Song for Che was one;  the other, a piece of jazz history that brought Ornette, Charlie and Denardo Coleman together to play a definitive take on Ornette’s Lonely Woman ‘one of the most beautiful of jazz ballads’, as John Fordham wrote in the Guardian).

And finally, the Barbican residency, where the Anglo-American Orchestra re-formed to great effect, and where Quartet West played a blinder of a set, from Ernie Watts’ storming saxophone solos to delicately-nuanced ballads from Melody Gardot, an on-fire Lianne Carroll and Charlie’s partner and muse, Ruth Cameron, that tugged at the heartstrings.  And at the real heart, and despite already failing health, Charlie Haden’s extraordinary bass sound and swing.  Never one for technical display, every note carefully and thoughtfully placed, and an uncanny sense of time and space.  And that’s what will be missed the most – whatever the musical setting (and there were many, many more), Charlie Haden was a one-off.

Finally, a piece of anorak rock and jazz lore: the riff of Ian Dury’s Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll is  lifted from Charlie Haden’s bass line in the recording of Ramblin on Ornette Coleman’s 1959 album Change of the Century, itself lifted from an old Kentucky folk song. Check it out.

There are many tributes now on the web, but well worth checking out Richard Williams’ piece on his terrific blog, The Blue Moment.

John Cumming
July 2014


This month’s announcement sees yet more world-class talent heading to London in November. With a particular focus on the strength of the European scene, we present Rusconi, Jef Neve, Alexander Hawkins and Marcin Masecki - pianists pushing at the boundaries of traditional piano-led jazz.

The integral place occupied by UK artists within this scene is highlighted with large-scale produced projects from Nikki Iles with the Royal Academy of Music Big Band, Phil Meadows’ stunning new Engines OrchestraRobert Mitchell’s Invocation – including Panacea, the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Goldsmiths’ (Big) Strings – and a special celebration of 100 years of the life of Coleridge Goode, led by Gary Crosby.

Two new family friendly matinees are announced – Supersonics and Family Jazz All Stars featuring Juliet Kelly.

Our announcement is completed by four heavyweight jazz masters Charles Lloyd, Henri Texier and a special Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas tribute to Wayne Shorter.

Click here (and scroll down) to download the full press release. 

State of the art American jazz

Derrick Hodge and Jaimeo Brown took Love Supreme Festival by storm on Saturday afternoon - and Derrick and Jaimeo are both in London tomorrow at The Jazz Cafe in a killing double bill.

An essential member of Robert Glasper’s band, Derrick’s deep bass grooves and astonishing technique lie at the heart of a new band that stopped Saturday’s show….and check out the astonishing young drummer Mike Mitchell – a rare chance to hear an undoubted star of the future.

Equally unmissable is Jaimeo’s passionate set building out of the inspiration of gospel choral sounds from the deep south, and featuring one of today’s great saxophone talents, JD Allen. State of the art American jazz…

Tickets are £15 and there'll be a limited number available on the door. 

From left: Derrick Hodge, Dave Holland, Jaimeo Brown. 


‘The Festival seems to unify the concert-going jazz community into one loving whole' (**** Evening Standard)

In what’s proved a bumper week for Serious with John Cumming, one of our Directors, being awarded the OBE for Services to Jazz, we’re thrilled to give you the details of the next hugely varied line-up announcement.

This, the third wave of shows to go onsale, underlines the diversity of the Festival, and its dedication to innovative programming; from the concert halls to the clubs.
We see the triumphant return of Marcus Miller to a London stage, and a cutting-edge double-bill with Lau meeting the electronica trio of Bugge Wesseltoft, Henrik Schwarz and Dan Berglund. There are very special concerts reflecting on 100 years of British Jazz as part of the PRS Centenary celebrations. In a never-to-be-repeated show, we have the reformation of four truly unique bands, to celebrate the work of Lindsay Cooper, and the UK and Germany’s national youth orchestras will combine in a promising double-bill showcasing the quality of the next generation.

Shows onsale this week include

Shows already announced include

Click here to download the full press release

John Cumming, Director of Serious, in the Honours list

Delighted to announce that John Cumming, one of the three Directors of Serious, has just been appointed as an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The award, for Services to Jazz, publicly recognises John’s long-standing commitment to the music. The OBE is awarded to those who have a ‘major role in their activity, and whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area’.

John is the primary programmer of jazz at Serious, creative producers of live music and events, with a long history of delivering world-class concerts and events across the UK, as well as running ground-breaking jazz education and professional development schemes for musicians.

John is committed to the important role that jazz plays in the fabric of music in the UK, working with festivals, concert halls, and local jazz clubs throughout the country over the years, as consultant and producer on the design and operation of their jazz and contemporary music programmes. As well as working with many of the established national and international figures in today’s jazz, he has a long history of commissioning new music and encouraging new collaborations between artists from different cultures and generations. 

John’s interests go beyond the concert hall and he has consistently championed the cause of jazz education in the broadest sense, through workshops, talks, schools and community participation, and music college collaborations. He is the lead director for Serious on the highly successful Take Five scheme for the professional development of emerging creative jazz musicians, and following the achievements of Take Five editions in the UK, Europe and Switzerland, has also worked on the Scottish version of this highly successful scheme – Air Time.

John’s work has contributed towards jazz being increasingly accepted as a dynamic and innovative art form, by the public and the media. Audiences for jazz and contemporary music have grown steadily and strongly in the last 10 years and Serious now produces over 550 events nationally every year, working with over 3600 artists and reaching live audiences of over 400,000, with a further broadcast audience of over five million reached in 2013. 

From the late 1960s John worked primarily in theatre as director and lighting designer.  Co-founder/director of the Pool Theatre, Edinburgh (his native city) in the early 70s, he worked with companies such as Welfare State International and IOU Theatre, and joined South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell in 1973, where he ran both the theatre and music programmes, and where he started the Bracknell Jazz Festival, building it over more than a decade into the country’s major international platform for contemporary jazz and improvised music.  He also programmed the Camden Jazz Week from the late 70s and into the early 90s, and as it evolved into what has become today’s EFG London Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 21st birthday last year.

He has been a member of a number of Arts Council and Regional Arts panels and committees, and until recently was a long-standing board member of Europe Jazz Network.

He received Services to Jazz Awards at the 2005 BBC Jazz Awards, and in 2012 from the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.