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.
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.
One of the outlets for bassist Charlie Haden's multifarious musical interests is the politically charged, progressive Liberation Music Orchestra. In July 1992, the Orchestra - a powerhouse of some of the top names in jazz - brought the collaborative sound of their album Dream Keeper to the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The African National Congress anthem, 'Nkosi Sikelel'I Afrika,' opens the program and sets the tone, with a blistering solo from the alto sax of Makanda Ken McIntyre and a more reflective one by tenor giant Joe Lovano.
It would seem a strange thing compiling the work of Charlie Haden's decade-long Quartet West Group onto a single disc. The reason isn't that they recorded so much material, but more because the material was themed record by record. Yet that is exactly why a compilation like this does work, because this group played music utilizing different aspects of the same theme: to evoke the spirits, ghosts and sprites of a Los Angeles that has moved off the screen of real life into the stuff of myth. That Haden and his group, which included drummer Larance Marable (who replaced Billy Higgins after the group's first, self-titled album in 1986), saxophonist Ernie Watts, and pianist Alan Broadbent could make it all sound so present and real, gives the impression that there was truth in the images. This is not only from a West Coast point of view (though there it is imbued more with the striking visual reveries to accompany the tunes) but also in the popular culture mythos in the collective American mind.
A fascinating set from three strong and contrasting musical personalities: Norwegian saxophonist, Brazilian guitarist-pianist, and US bassist making purposeful and creative music together on this previously unreleased live recording. “Carta de Amor” documents music captured at Munich’s Amerika Haus in April, 1981. Two years on from the much-loved albums “Magico” (ECM 1151) and “Folk Songs” (ECM 1170), the trio’s improvisational empathy and sensibilities were further honed by experiences as a touring group. Repertoire includes five pieces from Gismonti’s pen, with the title track heard in two variations, opening and closing this enthralling double album.