Liberation Music Orchestra

“The whole underlying theme for the new music…is to communicate honest, human values, and in doing that to try to improve the quality of life.”
— Charlie Haden

Not In Our Name (Verve/2005) | iTunes

This is a beautiful album, one that makes a case for vision, creativity, and concern. Not in Our Name pulls together a wide range of aesthetic possibilities that all reflect the American consciousness and simultaneously mourns the passage of it while resisting with a vengeance that nadir. While a jazz recording, this album crosses the boundaries of the genre and becomes a new world music, a new folk music: one to be celebrated, perhaps even cherished. (

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Liberation Music Orchestra (Verve/1999)

Almost three decades separate the release of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra debut and this set from an almost entirely different band. In truth, however, much of the lineup on this recording dates back to the time Haden recorded Dream Keeper. Recorded in 1989 as part of an eight-day tribute to Haden held at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this hour of music centers on two long suites, “We Shall Overcome” from Dream Keeper, and the more cohesive “La Pasionaria” from Ballad of the Fallen. With Joe Lovano and trumpeters Stanton Davis and Tom Harrell taking either leading melodic roles or remarkable solos, the band isn’t wanting for topnotch talent. It’s a party on the stage, to be sure, as you can hear band members reveling in the folksy root melody and the scrappy quote-rich tour of jazz history. It’s still a rare treat to hear this band at work, and Haden’s solos are in their usually imaginative form. (

Dream Keeper (Blue Note/1990)

Dream Keeper is the third Liberation Orchestra recording from Charlie Haden. This time out he pairs orchestra alumni Carla Bley (who wrote all the arrangements), drummer Paul Motian, and tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman with additional jazz heavyweights, like trumpeter Tom Harrell, tenor saxophonists Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis, trombonist Ray Anderson, and pianist Amina Claudine Myers. Taking the racial and political strife in South Africa and El Salvador as their spiritual focus, Haden and Bley deftly blend South American and African music, jazz, and gospel over the album’s five selections. An excellent album and one of Haden’s best. (

The Ballad of the Fallen (ECM/1982) | iTunes

Bassist Charlie Haden reactivated the concept behind his late ’60s Liberation Music Orchestra for this 1982 studio project, built around songs from the Spanish Civil War and other 20th century civil conflicts in the Spanish and Portuguese diaspora, including Chile and El Salvador. As arranged by Carla Bley (who, like Haden, also contributes originals), these 12-piece orchestrations showcase virtuoso players (including Dewey Redman, Michael Mantler, Paul Motian, and Jim Pepper) in luminous, restrained settings that capture both the dignity of the sources and the sorrow, anger, and pride elicited by their history. Even without its political subtext, The Ballad of the Fallen is a rich, elegiac marvel of large ensemble jazz. (

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Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!/1969) | iTunes

A fascinating reissue that comfortably straddles the lines of jazz, folk, and world music, working up a storm by way of a jazz protest album that points toward the Spanish Civil War in particular and the Vietnam War in passing. Haden leads the charge and contributes material, but the real star here may in fact be Carla Bley, who arranged numbers, wrote several, and contributed typically brilliant piano work. Also of particular note in a particularly talented crew is guitarist Sam Brown, the standout of “El Quinto Regimiento/Los Cuatro Generales/Viva la Quince Brigada,” a 21-minute marathon. (