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Friday, Dec. 9, 2005

LISTENING POST: CD REVIEWS

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra: "Not In Our Name"


Since the 1960s, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra has made political jazz, and their latest release, "Not In Our Name," is more than just potent music with angry titles. Music is any nation's heartbeat, and right now the orchestra finds something not quite ticking right in America.

Each song here offers some criticism of the current state of the nation in musical form. "This Is Not America" jams over a reggae beat that is strong and unafraid. "America the Beautiful" is re-arranged with ironic discord and minor harmonies. A martial drumbeat weaves in and out before being broken open by a wild saxophone solo that pits the freedom of jazz improvisation against the predictability of nationalist anthems.

Carla Bley arranged the songs for the 12-piece band of New York jazzers, and her work appears most strongly on her original "Blue Anthem," a tune that ties the blue states to the blues. The CD ends with "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber, a song used with devastating effect in the final scene of the Vietnam War film "Platoon." It is a haunting and fearful final piece.

"Not In Our Name" is a compelling and heartfelt work -- you don't even need words to know where and how these songs feel politically. Maybe some day, they'll even get to play them at the White House.



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