Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra

Released October, 2016

DownBeat Five-Star Review



In 1969, bassist Charlie Haden, responding to political turmoil, convened the Liberation Music Orchestra. As arranged by pianist/composer Carla Bley, the LMO enacted the riot at the previous year’s Democratic Convention, resolved with “We Shall Overcome.” Haden, who died in 2014, revived the Orchestra for recordings in ‘82, ’90 and 2004 with different stellar personnel but Bley always providing charts, and also released The Montreal Tapes from his 1989 festival stand. Time/Life, issued in 2016, posthumously features the bassist on two live tracks from ’04, and is suffused with his spirit, as the LMO’s ongoing concerts have been. The environment is central to its current repertoire, with one song titled “Silent Spring” after Rachel Carson’s classic study of pesticides, another dedicated to whales, and a gorgeous version of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green.” Bley gives musicians from New York City’s top jazz ranks both personal liberty and group responsibilities, with awesome results.

Track Listing:

1. Blue in Green [Live] (Miles Davis) 8:16

2. Time/Life (Carla Bley) 14:19

3. Silent Spring (Carla Bley) 11:43

4. Útviklingssang (Carla Bley) 7:55

5. Song for the Whales [Live] (Charlie Haden) 11:43


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

Recorded on January 14-15, 2015, at Avatar Studios, NY (tracks 2, 3 and 4) and on August 15, 2011 at the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Antwerp, Belgium (tracks 1 and 5)

Produced by Ruth Cameron Haden and Carla Bley


Time/Life is suffused with the spirit of Charlie Haden, even though the bassist and composer, who died in 2014, is personally present on only two tracks—a sumptuous rendition of “Blue In Green,” from Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue, and “Song Of The Whales,” on which Haden bows in imitation and empathy with the endangered giant mammals—recorded in 2011. On the three other tracks, Steve Swallow provides an electric bass anchor for the ensemble, a cohesive unit that projects Haden’s characteristic mix of forbearance and resilience. As on the five previous Liberation Music Orchestra albums since the ensemble was convened in 1969, pianist Carla Bley wrote the spare yet luminous arrangements. The group sound is so transparent that bandmembers’ individual strengths shine in the colorfully variegated tutti passages. As soloists, however, these musicians offer dramatic contrasts. Tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek are as stylistically distinct as, say, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Trumpeter Seneca Black’s shining tone balances Michael Rodriguez’s darker probings, while the low brass of trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, French horn player Vincent Chancey and tubist Joseph Daley add pungency. Guitarist Steve Cardenas warms Bley’s stark piano touches, and Matt Wilson drums sensitively, swinging gently at a slow pace. Ecology is the album’s stated concern, but mortality is its inescapable subtheme. Haden’s legacy is secure. The Liberation Music Orchestra lives.

Howard Mandel (DownBeat)