UPDATE: We’ve opened up a second page for people to post memories and tributes to Hadley.

Tenor saxophonist and jazz legend Hadley Caliman passed away this morning after a two year struggle with liver cancer. He was 78 years old.

Caliman remained active on the jazz scene until late-August, performing regularly around the Northwest in support of his recent releases: Reunion with Pete Christilieb, which was released in August and is now #31 on the national jazz charts, and Straight Ahead, which is #9 for the year on the Airplay Charts and was in the Top 10 on American jazz radio for many months.

Always striving to further himself on the saxophone, Caliman continued to practice daily until a week ago when he was too weak to continue. His last public performances were in Poulsbo on August 20, Tula’s Jazz Club on August 13, and the release performance for Reunion with Pete Christlieb at The New Orleans Creole Restaurant on August 8.

Caliman’s long career included credits with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Gerald Wilson, Carlos Santana, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Mongo Santamaria, Joe Pass, The Grateful Dead, Joe Henderson, Don Ellis, Flora Purim, Phoebe Snow, Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

More information about a memorial will be posted soon.

Note: We are opening up the Commenting on the website so if you’d like to post your memories of Hadley we will pass them along to his family. Click here to post a comment (at the bottom of the page)

Hadley Caliman, Seattle Jazz

Join the conversation! 30 Comments

  1. Thanks for the nice tribute. He leaves the world a better place, and all of us better for having known him. I first met him when he joined the faculty at Cornish where we both taught over twenty years. His influence on the Seattle music community will continue for many years to come through the students he mentored at Cornish. Thanks to Thomas Marriott for encouraging Hadley’s recording and late blooming performing career. I don’t think it would have happened without you, Tom. The full house at Jazz Alley on July 18 was a great triumph that meant a lot to Hadley. I could see how touched he was by that night and all the people who came out to honor him.

  2. An incredible talent, one of Seattles greats imo.

    I was one of those lucky students who had a chance to study with the great Hadley Caliman. I remember one of my first ensemble shows ever in Poncho theatre, playing live for the first time. Nervous as ever, family and parents in the audience. A wreck.

    Hadley on a whim started the first piece with: “Hey Joe, give us a piano intro”.
    (but…there was never a piano intro I said with my nervous eyes. Time passed at that moment…felt like an hour.)

    He walks up, stern, starts pounding time on the edge of the piano with his fist/quijada…demanding to get me started…
    I did what I could…freaked the whole time.

    I was so angry with him after that.

    That lasted all but 2 nights…because he saw a bit of that (idiotic) anger and came to talk to me about it. There was the lesson…and I missed it.

    What I learned from the man was a metric-ton about this music and what it is to be playing WITH a group. In this case, Joe – you’re the piano player up there, if a piano intro is asked for, whether you’ve done it before or not, you just do it. In fact, you relish the chance of being given the intro!

    From there on out the process of really “learning” had a chance to kick in. I look forward to chances and making music with all the talented musicians I’m lucky enough to meet.

    Thank you Hadley, we will miss you.

    Joe D

  3. Hadley represents the human struggle at its best. He proves that it is not what happens to a man but his reaction to it, that defines him. He transformed himself into a glorious and beautiful person who re-filled his heart daily with love and this shown brightly in his playing.

    I am glad that I have had the pleasure to stand at his side each month for the past twelve years learning what it is like to find peace in ones heart – and watching him affect people positively through his playing. When he soloed on Dindi, some would close their eyes and sit back and who knows where they had traveled to in their minds.

    Hadley played wonderfully on our last show August 1st at Tula’s. We laughed hard and the music was swinging – as always with Hadley. I remember a moment where he sounded so good I kissed his forehead. Little did I know that this would be my last time to see him or hear him play again. He was a great person who taught me many things through and about music.

  4. One of the most beautiful, gentle souls on this planet. His spirit, whether playing or talking was truly infectious. As a teenager I had many wonderful hours listening to his albums on Mainstream and to Bobby Hutcherson’s Knucklebean. It was an honor to become friends with him. My heart goes out to his wife Linda and all the people he touched. His music lives on. Be good Little Dex.

  5. What a privilege it has been to be a part of the Ballard Jazz Festival for the past few years and to get a chance to get to know Hadley, however slightly. He always had a smile and a kind word for me, even hugged one of my friends who had come to help volunteer one night. About a month ago, I discovered that an old friend studied under him at Cornish. it’s amazing how many people Hadley touched through his music and his genuine affection for the rest of us sharing time and space with him. He will be missed and I am sad that I didn’t get a chance to know him better.

  6. A memory of Hadley:

    I exited Kerry Hall late one rainy December night many years ago and headed for the parking lot. But I caught sight of a lone figure walking toward me through the freezing mist. He slumped badly as he walked, as if the next step might bring him to his knees. When he got closer, I said, “Hadley, is that you?” He didn’t respond, just kept walking toward me. When his face came into view, his expression horrified me. He looked as if he’d just lost his best friend in the world. Hard to tell in the rain if he’d been crying, but he looked devastated.

    I asked, “Hadley, what the heck’s wrong?!” He looked at me sadly and said, “Ah, man, Randy, I…..I don’t know, man….I just…just got this new horn.”


    “….and I….man, I just can’t get the sound, Randy. I’ve been up there playing on it for the last two hours solid, and I just….I can’t get the sound. I can’t…get…the SOUND.”

    I’ve loved him ever since.

    Keep playing, Hadley. You are the sound.

  7. I first met Hadley in San Francisco in the 70’s when he was playing around town. He was an intense and fiery man and player and I looked up to him and admired him.I was also a big fan of the soundtrack to El Topo which he played on. I asked him to play on the Santana album Caravanserai, and he did an incredible job on that recording. When I moved to Seattle in 1989 I hadn’t known that he was here and we were able to reconnect. He was a man who had been through a lot and fought a lot of demons to resurrect himself and he did a brilliant job of that, showing us what is possible in so many ways. Rest in Peace, Hadley.

  8. Dear Hadley,

    I owe you such a debt of gratitude for your generosity and kindness. You allowed me to share the bandstand with you on so many occasions, in so many venues, in so many places. You showed me the meaning of commitment as you shared your struggles and triumphs with me over the last few years. You treated me as an equal, then took me to school every night.
    We had so many good times and everywhere we went, your fans came toting stacks of your LP’s. Your insight into the music was profound and I was enriched by it over and over again. Thank you for all you did for me, and thank you for sharing so much music with all of us. Thank you for being such a good friend, I miss you dearly.

    Love Tom

  9. i had the great fortune of interviewing hadley caliman at length in 2004 for a feature article for ‘earshot jazz’ magazine. he had such a wealth of knowledge about music and life. he was always full of energy and ready for the next gig!

    r.i.p., hadley caliman

    Hadley Caliman’s Survival Skills | Earshot Jazz (June 2004)

    Hadley Caliman’s Survival Skills | Earshot Jazz (June 2004) — http://www.wahmee.com/ej_hadley_caliman.pdf

  10. Hadley had one of the kindest and most giving souls I ever encountered. His strength, determination and pure love for the music was a hugely inspirational. Few people if any would have been able to accomplish what he did in the last couple years under his circumstances. I truly regret not being there for the last couple months to hear him play or see him smile one more time. I’ll miss you Hadley.

  11. R.I.P. west coast jazz legend Hadley. im sorry u guys but by far the most legitimate jazz musican in seattle. hadley was the TOP

  12. Hadley was one of the kindest souls and a wonderful educator. I am so sorry to hear of his passing! I studied sax with him in the 80’s and quickly retired my ax, realizing that it would be better for the world that I just sing and leave the blowing to the like’s of Hadley. Rest in peace my friend.

    Alyssa Schwary

  13. I had the great fortune of studying with Hadley at Cornish as well as performing with him on different ocassions. It was always a lesson for me in being present and dedicated to the music. He was very generous and always communicated from his heart. Luckily, we have documentation of his beautiful sound and spirit that will always live on. I will miss you Hadley, Thank You!

  14. Hi

    I did not know Hadley, but I knew how much he meant to Briggan Krauss, one of my closest friends, and when I told Briggan of his passing, he sent me wonderful email.

    Hey Wayne thanks for letting me know.
    I did study with Hadley.
    We had vastly different musical tastes but it would be difficult to
    underestimate his impact on me as a saxophonist. Particularly in the
    area of sound.
    Prior to arriving at Cornish I had acquired terrible bad habits through basically teaching myself
    how to play which resulted in some minor injury where I couldn’t
    play for more than ten minutes without a great deal of pain in my throat
    and I’d have to rest for a while before I could pay more.
    With Hadley I had to basically re-learn how to play the saxophone from the ground up.
    He had me switch over to a more difficult to master double lip embrasure
    (rare for saxophone, more common for classical clarinet players)
    which has a much steeper learning curve but gives far greater benefits
    in the long run. I was also “starting all over again” in all other areas of saxophone technique too.
    This was a long and difficult process and Hadley really hung in the trenches with me.
    It would have been much easier for him to patch the leaks in the ship so to speak
    and say “You’re doing a great job kid, see you next week” than to go through the pain of rebuilding everything with me.
    He really cared enough to do that for me and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
    I think about him every time I practice (which is not as often as I’d like these days)
    because I still practice many of the same things that Hadley had me doing back then.
    Its funny you know but I thought about him while I was playing the other day.
    I know that he has been sick and I actually wondered if he was still alive. Hmmm
    Hadley’s teaching style might be best described as a lot of “tough love”.
    He could be mind-bendingly stubborn, opinionated, bigoted, incomprehensible and even cruel.
    He would sometimes say one thing one day and then say the exact opposite the next (and woe to anyone who tried to point that out)
    in other words…he could just be impossible.
    But he could also be warm, loving, completely generous and well, just lovely.
    He was a very strong and absolutely genuine presence…nothing phoney about him. He was at all times himself.
    He wore his angles and many of his demons on his sleeve and made no effort to withhold any thought or emotion wether it
    be bitterness, disappointment, satisfaction or pure joy.
    His love of jazz music was absolutely palpable and contagious. He also cared deeply for his students although I saw more than a few
    of them drop out of Cornish because of him. It might be said that if you couldn’t take some harsh criticism from Hadley then
    you probably aren’t cut out for a career in the performing arts but I think Hadley definitely crossed the line a couple of times.
    Anyway, that’s not for me to say.
    I studied with Hadley for the first two years I was at Cornish. I could deal with Hadley because I was at a point
    where I was willing to totally submit to a guru and be completely remolded. Luckily Hadley was a deep enough teacher
    to make that possible and worthwhile.
    I don’t think he ever understood me as a musician which makes me a bit sad. He always thought that my “man” was
    Eric Dolphy which never made sense to me.
    At any rate I only saw him a couple times after I left Cornish the last time must have been like eight years ago.
    I owe a lot to him and I hope that he was proud of me.

    Thanks for letting me know about Hadley’s passing. Wow, I didn’t set out to write such a long letter. Sorry.

    Talk soon.


  15. Thank you, Hadley, for having the such a positive impact on my love of jazz and the saxophone. I won’t forget your love, care, and passion for the music. May you rest in peace.


  16. Moving to the SF Bay Area 35 years ago. Someone said go to Hadley for a lesson, go find him………found him in the Berkeley Hills in the back of his van in the back of his van practicing in front of a music stand…….I knew then that I was in serious company. Generously letting you take his solos in Salsa ensembles, always believing in you, believing in the music, seeing through you………a most wonderful saxophonist and musician even when and sometimes especially when he may have thought he had a bad night…….to everyone else it was always wonderful. I have never known a more honest, warm and generous soul. Hadley knew what life was about and I/we will miss him. Always a friend……..always a giant. My condolences to beautiful Linda and the family.

    Darryl Barber

  17. Not only was Hadley a wonderful musician, he was a marvelous human being. I always felt lifted up after speaking with him. Heartfelt condolences to his family.

  18. Hadley was one of my Music Educators at Cornish College of the Arts from 94-99 and I has the opportunity as a Jazz Singer to play with him on several occasions. He was the REAL DEAL. He had stories about playing in Harlem with the best of the best Jazz Musicians. His stories were raw and unedited, like how he’d sneak into clubs in the wee hours to listen to his mentors play when he was under age…
    His tone, interpretation, skill & musicianship were breathtaking. His passion for music was like no other and he was so willing anytime and anywhere to share from his depths his struggles & his amazing stories. I will miss Hadley & I’ll never forget the honor & gift it was when he invited me to be his Special Guest Vocalist at his show at The Triple Door Spring of 2004. Rest in Peace Maestro. Your star burns brightly, lighting the way for many in your footsteps.

  19. “I’m feeling low down and blue, my heart’s full of sorrow”. . . Hadley’s playing was so amazing, so unique, so swinging! He was one in a million trillion zillion.

    Thank you Hadley, for all you did and shared, through your teaching, playing and recording. Your legacy will live on forever!

    Sincere condolences to all.

  20. I had the opportunity to study with Hadley during my time as as student at Cornish. He was a beautiful musician and a true treasure in Seattle and the greater jazz music community. I enjoyed him throughly from his fantastic playing, stories and his pure “Hadley” teaching style. His dedication and love of jazz was infectious and he left his mark on all of us students. He will always be remembered and loved.
    May he rest in peace. My heart goes out to his family, friends and loved ones.

  21. I had the distinct honor of playing with Hadley on his last gig here on earth. Artist Leigh Knowles Metteer painted a picture as a tribute to Hadley on that gig. The picture was incredible. It was an amazing evening and I will never forget how he said good bye to me. I gave him a soft hug in order not to hurt him. He smiled and said “now give me a good Christian hug” So I hugged him harder and said goodbye. I know where you are Hadley… you are in a better place. What a great man.

  22. We will miss you friend. Thanks for your friendship, music, and sharing your faith, stories and wisdom. Your legacy of wonderful jazz and the inspiration it provides for those that follow will continue to bless all of us.

  23. Hadley Caliman…an original musician, a kind and loving man and a one of a kind teacher.

    His legacy lives through his students and through their students and through all those who heard him and those whose playing he influenced.

    I am honored to have had him as a friend.

  24. Jazz89KUVO/KVJZ Remembers Hadley Caliman

    Hadley played Denver’s Dazzle Lounge twice over the past 3 years. Both times he visited the station and was a joy to be around, he gave no indication at all of his illness.

    Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb Wide Stance Reunion
    Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb I Thought About You Reunion
    Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb Comencia Reunion
    Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb Little Dex Reunion
    Mongo Santamaria w/Hadley Caliman Afro American Live at Pep’s

    Much more to come over the next few days

  25. I studied with Hadley while attending Cornish in the ’90’s. Although I was born in Boise, Idaho he would refer to me as “Texas Slim” from time to time. He was a great teacher who me taught a lot about jazz and life. Sometimes his method was tough and abrasive but he truly cared. Although I haven’t kept in touch with him as much as I’d have liked since graduation, I feel like I’ve lost a second father. Rest in peace Hadley.

    Andrew L. Parker

  26. I met Hadley over 5 years ago and was touch by his love for his fellow person. We had long talks about his past on his conversion to christianity and the history of jazz. Hadley was a humble person that knew and loved jazz and always had a kind words to say about other musicians that he played with. My father inlaw (Randle Victor) who knew Hadley well and was a life time jazz expert and lover of jazz thought Hadley was one of the best sax player around, I agree.He will be greatly missed.

    Rest in peace

  27. Hello, I studied with Hadley. He was a great musician, a true artist and an awesome person.

  28. Hadley was one of my closest friends. We were pals & colleagues for 20 years.
    Many shows w/ our 2 tenor band Tenor Summit @ Tula’s ; Bainbridge Island;CWU in Ellensburg; Cannon Beach, OR; and Richland, WA.

    We clled each other ” Hey Capricorn.” He was youthful in spirit, wise, funny, loving, generous,UNIQUE. a great musician, husband and dad.
    He also hated chocolate, ginger & fennel.
    He was also one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.

  29. I studied with Hadley at Cornish from 1984 – 1986. As a guitarist, studying improvisation with him opened up a whole new world on the guitar for me; we also played saxophone/guitar duets in the lessons and for several Cornish noon concerts. In addition to the many wonderful musical ideas and improvisational techniques that Hadley taught me, his deepest lesson was the importance of putting your heart and soul into your playing, and sharing the emotion of the music with the listener; Hadley did this with every single note he played! We kept in touch over the years and always talked around our Capricorn birthdays, which were 4 days apart. He was so upbeat, positive, and encouraging, even in the midst of his own challenges. My favorite often-used phrase of his was “You dig?” My heartfelt condolences go out to his family & friends. He will be greatly missed but his generous spirit and beautiful music will live on. Rest in peace, Hadley.

  30. Hadley and I were close friends and co-led a band together throughout the mid to late 80’s. When I moved to New York, Hadley used to come and stay with me a couple of summers at Evelyn Blakey’s place. We had a few gigs with a band that at times included, John Ore, Jimmie Lovelace, Denis Charles, Don Pate and others. One night Hadley sat in at Bradley’s and blew the roof off!! People were talking about it for weeks. When Dexter Gordon passed away his wife Maxine Gordon put together a tribute at Avery Fisher Hall. Two tenor saxophonists were invited to perform for Dexter’s tribute. Ugly phone calls from a couple of legendary saxophonists resulted from her decision. She told me, “Look, I picked Dexter’s two favorite tenor players, Junior Cook and Hadley Caliman.”

    Hadley and I recorded our band a few times including a session in 2000 with John Hicks, Curtis Lundy and Nasheet Waits. They were never released.
    I last spent time with Hadley the summer of 2000. We stayed in Brooklyn together for about 3 weeks. He told me his entire life story like it was to be the last time we shared together…it was.
    He was my dearest friend and I look forward to us hittin’ again in Paradise.

    Nathan Breedlove

Comments are closed.