Charlie Haden - Liberation Music Orchestra (1969)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 7:36 AM

A legendary album and rightfully so, Charlie Haden's 1969 protest piece, "Liberation Music Orchestra", is one of the essential pieces of music of his era. Assembling an extended cast of musicians to support the music with arrangements by the versatile Carla Bley, the music blends free jazz with folk traditions from the United States and Europe. Along the way, a series of fantastic individual performances underscore just how brilliant the record is.

The record, as all LPs were, was originally two sides, and Bley took advantage of this in the arranging, with the two sides being very different-- opening with a passionate theme (titled just "The Introduction") featuring superb alto playing from Dewey Redman-- this quickly descends into the first folk piece, the Eastern European "Song of the United Front" before moving into a medley of Spanish folk forms. Standout performances from guitarist Sam Brown (who is positively brilliant throuhgout the extended suite) and Don Cherry (whose cornet solo is totally brilliant) threaten to hide the brilliant arrangement-- Bley cleverly interweaves Spanish themes over an "oom-pa-pa" beat implying an Eastern European waltz in the middle of the piece-- the effect is nothing short of stunning. Eventually, her introduction is reprised, again performed with enormous passion and power, leaving one having experienced something stunning and noteworthy.

The second side isn't quite as good, admittedly-- without a unified sound, its more of a straight jazz performance-- with two originals by Haden ("Song for Che" and bass feature "Circus 68 69") surrounding an Ornette Coleman composition ("War Orphans") and an interlude composed by Bley. Don't get me wrong-- the performances are great, its just that the first side is so stunning in its genre blending that with the second side being more or less straight free jazz (if such a thing makes sense), its not quite as exciting. Still, standout solos from tenorman Gato Barbieri and Haden himself highlight the Haden originals. "Summer '68 '69" is interesting in that it quotes a couple patriotic pieces throughout while tenorman Gato Barbieri wails away recklessly, Bley slyly phrases "We Shall Overcome" on organ, hinting at the closer. A stunning performance of that folk theme with trombonist Roswell Rudd positively overwhelming, it really is something to hear.

When it's over, you feel like you've experienced something. Not many records can say that. If you don't have this one and you're reading this, you probably should. Essential listening. By M. Stack
1. The Introduction
2. Song Of The United Front
3. Medley: El Quinto Regimiento
4. The Ending To The First Side
5. Song For Che
6. War Orphans
7. The Interlude (Drinking Music)
8. Circus '68 '69
9. We Shall Overcome

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