Time/Life [Song for the Whales and Other Beings] (Impulse)

Charlie Haden & the Liberation Music Orchestra

Released November 4, 2016

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2016






When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, the musicians in the Liberation Music Orchestra thought they were out of a job. Charlie had only felt moved to make albums with the LMO when he was infuriated with the political system. But even with Obama in office he became more and more upset about ongoing crimes against the environment.

Finally his wife Ruth pointed out that maybe he should make another LMO album to protest the mistreatment of the earth’s plants and animals. Charlie spoke to me about the idea and we began to look for material that would make sense instrumentally. We decided on “Song for the Whales” with Charlie’s evocative intro, and “Blue in Green” which just squeaked onto the list because of it’s title, and because it was such a beautiful piece. The promoter of the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Belgium had asked Charlie to bring the Orchestra to perform at his festival which was focusing on environmental issues, so Charlie asked me to write arrangements of thos two pieces for the occasion. Luckily, the Belgian Radio recorded the concert, and Charlie played great. We didn’t realize at the time that we would be able to include his only performance of this music on an album we would complete after he was gone.

We went on to play in Oslo, where people were still reeling from the massacre of 77 people by a madman. I thought that an arrangement of “Útviklingssang” would be an appropriately mournful song to play at the concert. The title referred to the construction of dams in the far north of Norway, which would disrupt the lives of reindeer and salmon and the Sami people who lived there. That concert wasn’t recorded, but we had another arrangement ready for a new LMO album.

Unfortunately, Charlie’s health took a downturn. We decided to include “Silent Spring”, a piece that I had written in the sixties which made reference to a pioneering book on the environment by Rachel Carson, and I was working on an arrangement of it for the LMO, but we hadn’t yet thought of any other appropriate songs. Progress on the album slowed while Charlie and Ruth dealt with his increasing infirmity. When I finally got the call from Ruth that Charlie had passed away, all I could think to do was to write music.

I sat at the piano and my hands played what I thought would be a final chord. But it was the first chord of “Time/ Life”, the piece that would become my goodbye to him. The piece was for Charlie and the band, but I dedicated it to Ruth who had to be suffering the loss of his living self more than the rest of us. The idea for the title came as I remembered something that George Russell had pointed out to a friend who was visiting him at Belleview Hospital, where George was being treated for bleeding ulcers and feared he might die. What he could see from his bed near the window was the top of the Time-Life Building, an imposing skyscraper on 6th Avenue, with the disturbing words Time and Life flashing alternately. Who would have thought that this album would only be finished after Charlie ran out of time?

Ruth asked Jean-Philippe Allard, of Impulse Records in France, if still wanted to make the album, and he did, so we went into the studio for two days at the beginning of 2015 to complete it. Charlie had wanted Steve Swallow to be the bass player if he could no longer lead the band and play, and that decision was accepted by everyone. The musicians played with a level of love and dedication that I had never experienced. Let us hope that this music will inspire awareness of how beautiful the earth is, and how important it is for us to take better care of it.

Carla Bley (2016)

Track Listing:

1. Blue in Green [Live] (Miles Davis) 08:16

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

3. Silent Spring (Carla Bley) 11:43

4. Útviklingssang (Carla Bley) 07:55

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

Produced by Ruth Cameron Haden and Carla Bley

Arranged & Conducted by Carla Bley

Recording and Mixing Engineer: Jay Newland

Assistant Recording Engineer: Aki Nishimura

Mastered by Mark Wilder

Executive Producers: Jean-Philippe Allard and Farida Bachir

Cover Illustration: Blue in Green Music, Georgia O’Keeffe (The Art Institute of Chicago)

Design: Françoise Bergmann


In 2011, bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Carla Bley led an iteration of the Liberation Music Orchestra in a live concert at the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Antwerp, Belgium. It was partially intended as a warm-up for a forthcoming Liberation Music Orchestra album, a process that had been in the works since 2007. Sadly, Haden died from post-polio syndrome in 2014 before any new LMO tracks could be recorded. Thankfully, Haden, along with his wife, Ruth Cameron Haden, and Bley had discussed his desires for how to finish the album prior to his passing. Furthermore, the 2011 performance, which included two new arrangements earmarked for the planned album, had been recorded for Belgian public radio. All this meant that an album was possible, and in 2015 Bley convened the LMO in a studio to record the new material. Per Haden’s request, longtime friend and esteemed bassist Steve Swallow was brought in to play his parts. Produced by Ruth Cameron Haden and Bley, along with Jean-Philippe Allard and Farida Bachir, Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings) is an atmospheric, elegiac album inspired by Haden’s longstanding love and concern for the environment. Two of the songs, Bley’s evocative arrangement of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” and Haden’s “Song for the Whales,” are culled from the live concert and bookend the album. Opening with a haunting, bowed rubato intro in which Haden mimics whale sounds, “Song for the Whales” shifts gears into a searing, confrontational statement centered on saxophonist Tony Malaby’s furious improvisation. Similarly, “Blue in Green,” given a lush, enveloping treatment by Bley, is anchored by trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, whose yearning, vocal-like intensity brings to mind a compelling mix of Miles Davis and original LMO member Don Cherry. Also included are several older Bley compositions, with “Silent Spring” and “Útviklingssang” both dramatically rearranged with spine-tingling results by Bley. Similarly, Bley’s ruminative title track has the measured pace and sobbing, breath-like flow of a person in mourning. What is also particularly compelling about Time/Life is how well the live recordings blend with the studio tracks. Much of this is due to Bley, whose arranging and spare, harmonic piano skills bridge the recordings and help elevate the album to one of the best in the LMO’s catalog. Also due credit is Swallow, who is able to fill Haden’s role while also adding his own distinctive voice to the band’s legacy. Along with being bravura, highly engaging performances, these songs are also somewhat bittersweet in light of Haden’s passing. Adding to this feeling is the fact that on the live tracks you hear Haden address the audience, his voice already weak from the effects of the post-polio syndrome. Ultimately, on Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings), it’s that voice, literally and creatively, that remains with you.

Matt Collar (AllMusic)