Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Not in Our Name (2005)
You can feel protest in the alto saxophone wails that Miguel Zenon delivers on "This is Not America." You can feel unity in the traditional melody of "Amazing Grace," as Charlie Haden "spreads the word" as bass soloist with Carla Bley comping on piano. You can feel the anticipation rising as a solitary trumpeter interprets "Goin' Home" in the manner of a bugler comforting an extended family and guiding them through unanticipated funeral ceremonies.
You can feel the hurt and sorrow that Haden adds on "Throughout," as his bass leads this twelve-piece ensemble through its paces. He's got a statement to make with Not in Our Name. As Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra has done since its inception in 1968, it interprets thought-provoking music with a deep layer of improvisation tied to particular themes that belie distinct impressions.
Haden wants to make it clear to his audience that we've always got room for opposing voices. It's the nature of democracy. To do so through music without lyrics takes a special approach, though. The orchestra's program paints a picture of sadness, mood-driven decisions, regret over lives lost, and a yearning to make things right. It's not a call to action. Rather, the music inspires us with a desire to have our politics managed carefully with much forethought and debate from all sides.
A seventeen-minute medley that includes "America the Beautiful" serves as the album's centerpiece. The band and soloists create a musical collage that reminds us where our hearts lie. The beauty of this patriotic song stirs emotions, furthered by the inclusion of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," with overtones that predict a need for unity and stronger political leadership. Joe Daley's soulful tuba solo reminds us that our voices are essential in any kind of civilized governmental affair. As he builds his feature to a rant, we begin to feel that our voices do make a difference.
To drive the message home, Haden inserts Ornette Coleman's "Skies of America" into the medley with passions flying and horns crying through dissonant struggles and agitated confusion. As the ensemble returns to the medley's theme with each instrumental voice following its own path, you get the idea that a solution is sorely needed. Fortunately, Haden, Bley, and the Liberation Music Orchestra find an answer in the closing chorus. They bow out solemnly with harmonic purity and leave us to the business of organizing our political affairs.
Track Listing: Not in Our Name; This is Not America; Blue Anthem; America the Beautiful (Medley); Amazing Grace; Goin' Home; Throughout; Adagio.
Personnel: Charlie Haden: bass; Carla Bley: piano, conductor, arranger; Chris Cheek, Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Seneca Black, Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Ahnee Sharon Freeman: French horn; Joe Daley: tuba; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Matt Wilson: drums.