Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra @ Le Poisson Rouge (pics, setlist, review)
On January 10, Le Poisson Rouge hosted Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra for the last night of Winter Jazzfest. The LMO was formed in 1969 by the late, legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Carla Bley as a vehicle to protest political and social injustices of the time. Their first album was released in 1970 and is highly regarded as a landmark jazz album that incorporated elements of jazz, folk and world music and featured some of the best musicians of the era.
Charlie’s widow Ruth Cameron Haden was on hand for the evening and she explained that Charlie would revisit the LMO project five times over since its formation, as he felt the urgent need to make new statements about the current political, social and environmental issues. One of the last live performances Charlie made was in Belgium in 2011 and was intended as a warm up for the next LMO album. The album ended up being completed and released after Charlie’s death in 2014, following his original intentions and instructions, and the result was 2016's Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings) and featured some of the live material recorded at the Belgium concert.
The lineup of LMO that appeared at LPR was essentially the same band on the album, except the amazing Geri Allen filled in for Carla Bley, plus Earl McIntyre on tuba, Derek Oles on bass and Rodney Green on drums. The band was stunning and did spectacular versions of LMO material and some carefully selected covers. The opener was a Miles Davis track called "Blue in Green" and featured amazing playing by trumpeter Michael Rodriquez who put his own stamp on the song but at times certainly recalled the lyrical style of Miles. The band performed fantastic, lengthy and occasionally dissonant versions of traditional tunes "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful" and even covered David Bowie’s "This is Not America" and Neil Young’s "Goin’ Home." Geri Allen, Chris Cheeks and Curtis Fowlkes' brilliant solos and performances were amongst the highlights of the evening.
The set culminated with "Song for the Whales," which starts and ends with bowed bass mimicking whale songs. The song soon morphed into an aggressive and scorching track whose peak moment, and my favorite part of the evening, was a fierce and mind blowing solo by the talented Tony Malaby on tenor sax. The packed crowd at LPR demanded an encore and the band performed the traditional song "We Shall Overcome," which appeared on the first LMO album.
In keeping with Charlie’s theme of social, political and environmental causes, the evening opened with the Music and Environmental Justice Panel including Ruth Cameron Haden, Franz Matzner (the head of the National Resources Defense Council), trumpeter Dave Douglas, pianist Fabian Almazan and violinist Dana Lyn. The panel concentrated on environmental topics and included a Q&A session at the end.
Pictures from the evening are in the gallery above, and setlist is below.
SETLIST: Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra @ LPR 1/10/2017
Not in our Name (Charlie Haden)
Blue in Green (Miles Davis cover)
This is not America (David Bowie/Lyle Mays/Pat Metheny cover)
Silent Spring (Carla Bley)
Amazing Grace (John Newton/Traditional cover)
America the Beautiful (Katherine Lee Bates/Samuel A. Ward cover)
Goin’ Home (Neil Young cover)
Song for the Whales (Charlie Haden)
We Shall Overcome (Guy Carawan/Pete Hamilton/Zilphia Horton/Pete Seeger/Traditional cover)
Tony Malaby-tenor sax
Chris Cheek-tenor sax
Loren Stillman-alto sax
Vincent Chancey-French horn
photos and review by Greg Cristman