Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Not In Our Name. 2004. Verve: B0004949-02.
Charlie Haden: bass
Carla Bley: piano/conductor/arrangements
Michael Rodriguez: trumpet
Seneca Black: trumpet
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Ahnee Sharon Freeman: french horn
Joe Daley: tuba
Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone
Chris Creek: tenor saxophone
Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone
Steve Cardenas: guitar
Matt Wilson: drums
Born out of the frustration of the 2004 general election: "We were hoping sanity and justice would prevail. They lost out to greed, cruelty and injustice. The machine won the election again by hook and by crook; the way it was won in 2000." Charlie Haden and Carla Bley reconstitute the Liberation Music Orchestra for a new collection of big band protest music. The need for such protest having only grown since their first release in 1968. An ensemble that has figured prominently on my radar since being smitten by 1991's Dream Keeper - a disc that only grows more beautiful with each listening.
Not In Our Name is an extraordinary recording rising out of the bleakness of the current national political and cultural climate. An act of heart breaking defiance in the face of deafening indifference toward art and jazz. From the passionate bass solo on "Amazing Grace" to the big band arrangement of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" to the new take on Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays/David Bowie's "This Is Not America" to the fantastic orchestration of Bill Frisell's "Throughout," this a music of sadness and passionate honesty. And yet it still carries that same "We Shall Overcome" vibe that marked the Liberation Orchestra's first outing almost 40 years ago.
Gunda Gottschalk/Peter Jacquemyn/Ute Volker: Baggerboot. 2005. Henceforth Records: 102.
Gunda Gottschalk: violin, viola
Peter Jacquemyn: bass
Ute Volker: accordion
The reedy quality of the accordion blends well with the bowed strings in this free improvisation as these big ear collaborators fashion sound masses thick with sonic detail. The occasional focal point or cadenza does emerge from time to time, but for the most part this is a self-less effort as each performer adds to the prevailing sound. And in many ways this sounds like an extension of Gottschalk's beautiful solo improvisations with the addition of new range and timbre to these well-formed explorations.
Ron Miles: Heaven. 2002. Sterling Circle Records: SC5151.
Ron Miles: trumpet
Bill Frisell: guitar
These long time collaborators have a similar (and profound) sense of melody. With sparse lines like a slight drizzle of rain, the barest outline of a familiar song will emerge. This is the case with Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart," as the slow tempo and spare textures coax the tenor of this piece from a mere whisper. This same simpatico also allows these two to lock into a steady groove, which they do with abandon on Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp" and the infectious opening track "Just Married" - a Ron Miles composition. Added to this impressive display of melody and rhythm is the generous give and take of their improvisations. Heaven is a welcome spin in the rotation anytime.