Bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Carla Bley, two of the more eclectic and versatile people in jazz, make a great team as musical conceptualists as a they draw on a shared vision and Bley's knack for sometimes off-kilter large ensemble arranging.
It has been 37 years since Charlie Haden and Carla Bley formed the first edition of Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra at the height of the Vietnam War. This edition launched an international tour in 2004 that began with a stunning performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival and was recorded in Rome three weeks later during the European tour leg. Haden explained the project's purpose in his brief liner notes:
"We want the world to know that the devastation that this administration is wreaking is not in our name. It's not in the name of many people in this country... Our opposition to the inhumane treatment of this universe remains.
While there are brief, cohesive solos scattered throughout the work by most, if not all of the members, it is the ensemble nature of the work that makes it special. While not every tune is an "anthem per se, each of them gets a sweeping anthemic treatment and feel. Haden and Bley each wrote one tune (the title track and "Blue Anthem respectively) and drew the other material from composers ranging from Samuel Barber and Antonin Dvorák to Bill Frisell, Ornette Coleman ("Skies of America ), Gary McFarland, and Pat Metheny, among others.
The title track's chanson allusions and the way in which the Americana-referenced and musically visual Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays/David Bowie composition "This Is Not America segues right into reggae beat bring an international feel to a musical/political statement that indeed is international. "Blue Anthem begins as a soulful dirge, a feeling that Haden enriches with his midpoint bass solo leading into uplifting guitar, brass and piano counterpoint.
The centerpiece is an "America the Beautiful medley that begins with a spirited reinterpretation of the Samuel Ward original, segues into McFarland's reworking of the same tune, while the African-American spiritual "Lift Every Voice and Sing ends it. "Skies of America opening with a strong drum solo and propelled by the always-creative Matt Wilsonand the traditional "Amazing Grace are also natural fits here, as is the closing elegiac chamber arrangement of "Adagio from Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings.
Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of Bley and Haden, it is hard not to appreciate the depth and breadth of their musicality, and how the LMO brings it all to life. If there were six stars in the ratings, this disc would deserve them.
Track Listing: Not In Our Name; This Is Not America; Blue Anthem; America The Beautiful (Medley);
Amazing Grace; Goin' Home; Throughout; Adagio (from Adagio For Strings).
Personnel: Charlie Haden: bass; Carla Bley: piano: tambourine; Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby: tenor
sax; Miguel Zenon: alto sax; Michael Rodriguez and Seneca Black: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes:
trombone; Ahnee Sharon Freeman: French horn; Joe Daley: tuba; Steve Cardenas: guitar;
Matt Wilson: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.