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This empowering masterpiece of an album succeeds brilliantly on at least three levels: as proof that instrumental jazz can be as powerful a protest music as the lyric-based Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan tradition; as demonstration that at least one corner of the domestic American opposition to the Bush administration is in strong and resonant form; and as confirmation that Charlie Haden and Carla Bley's shared musical vision for the Liberation Music Orchestra can still produce some of the richest, most singular little big band music it will ever be your pleasure to hear.
Haden and Bley founded the Liberation Music Orchestra in '69, and this is only the band's fourth album in 35 years. The title Not In Our Name comes from the window posters displayed by householders throughout Europe in protest at the US-led invasion and occupation of IraqHaden noticed the posters while on tour in '03.
Moved to create an album which articulated his own and many other Americans' opposition to the war, Haden reassembled the LMO and asked Bley to arrange material by a wide range of American composersfrom Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Bley and himself to Antonin Dvorak and Samuel Barber.
Haden says he chose all American composers because he wanted make a statement that "just because you're not for everything that this administration is doing, doesn't mean that you're not patriotic." To emphasise that point, the medley "America The Beautiful" includes the African-American anthem "Lift Every Voice And Sing" and Coleman's "Skies Of America," while Bley's gutsily reggaefied arrangement of Metheny's "This Is Not America" quotes "Dixie," "The Star Spangled Banner," and "Battle Hymn Of The Republic." The bitter- sweet, ironic inclusion of iconic patriotic anthems within Not In Our Name is underscored by the strange and dissonant voicings Bley employs in her arrangements. You hear things differently, and maybe you understand them differently too, just like Bley and Haden intend.
On a purely artistic level, the music is stunning throughout. Michael Rodriguez's warm and embracing trumpet references both Chet Baker and Fats Navarro, and his showcase "Goin' Home" is one of many highlights; Ahnee Sharon Freeman and Joe Daley are awesome, their French horn and tuba playing truly astonishing, genius achievements; Steve Cardenas' guitar is a South of the Border delight; and the sax section is comprised of three stone stellar giants. Haden and Bley solo infrequently, but beautifully.
"So now," writes Haden in his liner notes, "although we lost the election, we have not lost the commitment to reclaim our country in the name of humanity and decency. Don't give upthe struggle continues!" It continues in little ol' England too.
Track Listing: Not In Our Name; This Is Not America; Blue Anthem; America The Beautiful (Medley); Amazing Grace; Goin' Home (from Dvorak's New World Symphony); Throughout; Adagio (from Barber's Adagio For Strings).
Personnel: Michael Rodriguez, trumpet; Seneca Black, trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone; Ahnee Sharon Freeman, French horn; Joe Daley, tuba; Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone; Chris Cheek, tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone; Steve Cardenas, electric and acoustic guitars; Carla Bley, piano; Charlie Haden, bass; Matt Wilson, drums. Arranged and conducted by Carla Bley.
Jazz is a creative explosion of individual freedom and communication.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was a kid. My father had a music store.
The best live performance I ever attended was Kenny Garrett in Harlem, New York.
The first jazz record I bought was Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins.
My advice to new listeners is keep listening!