6

Charlie Haden / Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life:Songs For The Whales And Other Beings

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Formed by bassist Charlie Haden in 1969 to protest America's war in Vietnam/Indochina, the Liberation Music Orchestra has reconvened roughly every ten years to record musical protest in the face of major injustices. Time/Life: Song for the Whales and Other Beings was inspired by concern at global ecological destruction, and to that end the music has a pervasive melancholy colored by the LMO's signature lyricism, and broken up by stirring collective and individual passages.

The LMO's personnel has changed significantly over the years—hardly surprising in an occasional enterprise approaching its half century—but ten of the twelve musicians who played on the previous LMO outing, Not in Our Name (Verve, 2005) remain, resulting in a familiar band sound that's as keenly felt in Bley's orchestral ensemble notation as it is in the soloing.

Two live tracks recorded at the 2011 Jazz Middleheim Festival in Belgium feature Haden, who would pass away in 2014 before the record's completion; while Steve Swallow brings his distinctive electric bass sound to the three studio tracks written by Carla Bley—the LMO's pianist and arranger since the first LMO incarnation.

"Blue In Green"—the two major colors of planet Earth?—is perhaps a tenuous inclusion in otherwise thematically linked compositions, but it's hard to resist Bley's lush, slow-breathing arrangement of this hauntingly beautiful Miles Davis/Bill Evans tune. Michael Rodriguez stars, but Haden's trademark searching solo and tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek's poignant response are no less captivating. At song's end, a slightly frail-sounding Haden introduces the band one-by-one.

Fast-forward five years to the studio on Bley's bitter-sweet elegy "Time/Life," and the LMO members, one by one, pay tribute to Haden. Tony Malaby's extended tenor solo conveys the great emotional depth of one of Bley's most captivating compositions, with a subsequent series of short solos as tender, final farewells.

Swallow and guitarist Steve Cardenas (on acoustic) combine in a gentle waltz on "Silent Spring," a reworking of a Bley tune that first appeared on Gary Burton's A Genuine Tong Funeral (RCA, 1968). This Spanish-tinged dirge sees Cheek and Rodriguez in expansive form, though the real star is Bley's arrangement, which pits rhythmic pulses and brass voicings in a metronomic call-and-response, as the LMO swells and recedes with all the color and mournful drama of a season—or a life—passing.

"Útviklingssang" is another older Bley composition, written in the '70s in response to the impact of dam construction in the north of Norway. Alto saxophonist Loren Stillman and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes come to the fore, with strikingly spare accompaniment from the rhythm section. Bley's less-is-more arrangement accentuates the achingly pretty melody of this most affecting blues ballad.

Haden's bow conjures eerily convincing leviathan sonorities on "Song for the Whales," a tune from the great Old and New Dreams quartet of the '70s that, featuring Haden alongside Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell, paid tribute to past employer Ornette Coleman. Driven by Matt Wilson and Haden in tandem, Malaby's tortured tenor cries scream protest. Haden once again works his wand-like bow to give voice to the whales, closing this live performance with a poignant address to the audience extolling the wonder of existence. "It's so important to remember how precious this life is..." Time/Life, indeed.

There's likely more LMO live material in the vaults somewhere, but if Time/Life proves to be the final chapter in the story, then these heartfelt performances will provide a fitting and moving tribute to Haden and his lifelong musical quest to make the world a better place.

Track Listing: Blue in Green; Time/Life; Silent Spring; Útviklingssang; Song for the Whales.

Personnel: Charlie Haden: acoustic bass (1, 5); Carla Bley: piano, arrangements; Steve Swallow: electric bass (2, 3-4); Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Seneca Black: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Vincent Chancey: French horn; Joseph Daley: tuba; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: Time/Life:Songs For The Whales And Other Beings | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Impulse!


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Bright Yellow with Bass CD/LP/Track Review Bright Yellow with Bass
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Easy Living" CD/LP/Track Review Easy Living
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Live at Club Helsinki" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Club Helsinki
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2017
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Live at the High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "A Cast of Thousands" CD/LP/Track Review A Cast of Thousands
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "Atrium" CD/LP/Track Review Atrium
by James Nadal
Published: May 2, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.