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Liberation Music Orchestra

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Tuesday 3/12/2019 Show: Carla Bley

Photo: Carla Bley | © Klaus Muempher. All Rights Reserved by photographer.

Program note: we’re in a new weekly Tuesday night slot from 10-12 midnight!

The next show will air on Tuesday March 12, 2019 from 10:00 PM – 12 Midnight Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org.This broadcast features an interview with pianist Carla Bley.

Post-bop jazz has produced only a few first-rate composers of larger forms; Carla Bley ranks high among them. Bley possesses an unusually wide compositional range; she combines an acquaintance with and love for jazz in all its forms with great talent and originality. Her music is a peculiarly individual type of hyper-modern jazz. Bley is capable of writing music of great drama and profound humor, often within the confines of the same piece. As an instrumentalist, she makes a fine composer; she plays piano and/or organ with most of her bands, and while her playing is always quite musical, it’s clear that her strengths lie elsewhere. Bley’s asymmetrical compositional structures subvert jazz formula to wonderful effect, and her unpredictable melodies are often as catchy as they are obscure. In the tradition of jazz’s very finest composers and improvisers, Bley has developed a style of her very own, and the music as a whole is the better for it.

Born Carla Borg, Bley learned the fundamentals of music as a child from her father, a church musician. Thereafter, she was mostly self-taught. She moved to New York around 1955, where she worked as a cigarette girl and occasional pianist. She married pianist Paul Bley, for whom she began to write tunes (she also wrote for George Russell and Jimmy Giuffre). In 1964, with her second husband, trumpeter Michael Mantler, Bley formed the Jazz Composer’s Guild Orchestra, which a year later became known simply as the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. Two years later, Bley helped found the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Association, a nonprofit organization designed to present, distribute, and produce unconventional forms of jazz.

In 1967, vibist Gary Burton’s quartet recorded Bley’s cycle of tunes A Genuine Tong Funeral, which brought her to the attention of the general public for the first time. In 1969, Bley composed and arranged music for Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. In 1971, she completed the work that cemented her reputation, the jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill. In the ’70s and ’80s, Bley continued to run the JCOA and compose and record for her own Watt label. The JCOA essentially folded in the late ’80s, but Bley’s creative life continued mostly unabated. For much of the past two decades, she’s maintained a midsized big band with fairly stable personnel to tour and record. She’s also worked a great deal with the bassist Steve Swallow, in duo and in ensembles of varying size.

Bley wrote the music for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Mortelle Randone. She also contributed new compositions to the Liberation Music Orchestra’s second incarnation in 1983. All through the ’80s, ’90s, and into the new millennium, Bley continued releasing albums through ECM, ranging from duets with bassist Steve Swallow to the Very Big Carla Bley Band. In 2013, Bley returned with Trios, featuring Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard; the album marked the very first time that the pianist recorded for ECM proper instead of WATT, which had been her home for over 40 years.

[(Bio adapted from  Allmusic)

This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Carla Bley will make a rare New York appearance at the Jazz Standard on March 19-20 leading a trio including longtime collaborator Steve Swallow.

Web Extras:

Watch Bley and Steve Swallow in this live  version of “Lawns.”

Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.

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Sunday 1/8/2017 Show: Winter Jazz Fest/ Liberation Music Orchestra

charlie_haden_carla_bley_suga
Photo: Charlie Haden and Carla Bley.
 
The next show will air on Sunday, January 8, 2017 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast concludes WBAI’s coverage of the 2017 Winter Jazz Festival. Our focus is the Liberation Music Orchestra, founded by late bassist Charlie Haden that is closing out the 2017 WJF. Featured guests are multi instrumentalist Joe Daley and Ruth Cameron: Haden’s widow, longtime manager and producer of several of Haden’s albums.
 

 
Synonymous with the legacy of late jazz bassist Charlie Haden, the Liberation Music Orchestra was one of the most influential groups to emerge from the avant-garde jazz period of the 1960s. Founded by Haden and pianist/collaborator Carla Bley in 1969 as way to protest social and political injustices — and as a vehicle for exploring large-scale works of free and forward-thinking jazz — the Liberation Music Orchestra was a vital component of the bassist’s career until his death in 2014.
 
The group’s landmark 1970 album, Liberation Music Orchestra, featured original and well-curated cover compositions arranged by Bley that touched upon an array of sociopolitical topics, from the Vietnam War to the civil rights movement. It also showcased the group’s stylistic eclecticism, incorporating jazz, folk, and world music elements. Helping to achieve this sound was a cadre of jazz luminaries including trumpeter Don Cherry, saxophonist Gato Barbieri, drummer Andrew Cyrille, trombonist Roswell Rudd, trumpeter Michael Mantler, and others.
 
Over the next five decades, Haden and Bley would reconvene the LMO with varying lineups for a handful of albums including 1982’s The Ballad of the Fallen, 1990’s Dream Keeper, and 2005’s Not in Our Name. Throughout these recordings and various live performances, Haden displayed both his abundant musical vision and his profound commitment to supporting progressive political movements, environmentalism, and social justice worldwide.
 
Having contracted polio at age 15, Haden’s health suffered in later years and he was eventually diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. The condition left him in a weakened state and severely limited his ability to perform. Haden died in Los Angeles in July of 2014. He was 76 years old. In 2016, Impulse! released Haden’s final album with the Liberation Music Orchestra, Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings). Produced by Haden’s wife, Ruth Cameron Haden, and Carla Bley, the album featured a live performance Haden gave with the Liberation Music Orchestra in Belgium in 2011, along with three new studio recordings the LMO made after his death with bassist Steve Swallow, one of Haden’s many longtime friends.
 
 
Partial bio adapted from Allmusic.
 
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
 
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra will be closing the 2017 Winter Jazz Festival at Le Poisson Rouge at 8:00 PM on January 10 with pianist Geri Allen. This concert will be preceded by a panel discussion on social and environmental justice at 6:00 PM.
 
Web Extras
 
Read our report from Haden’s NYC memorial service on our blog. Also listen to Joyce Jones’s interview of Charlie Haden and Ruth Cameron on an earlier show.
 
Watch the Liberation Music Orchestra play “Throughout” in this live clip.
 

 
Watch the Liberation Music Orchestra play “La Pasionaria” in this live clip.
 

 
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.

Sunday 7/20/14 Show: Charlie Haden Memorial

Charlie Haden & Kenny Barron, 16/08/2009, Jazz Middelheim 13-16/08/2009, Antwerp, BE
Photo: Bruno Bollaert, Jazz Middelheim – 8/16/2009

The next show will air on Sunday, July 20, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will be a memorial to bassist, composer, and former yodeling cowboy Charlie Haden, who died on July 11th. As a tribute to this great artist, we’re re-broadcasting our interview with Haden and wife/musical collaborator Ruth Cameron, originally aired on April 10, 2011.



Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Charlie Haden began his life in music almost immediately, singing on his parents’ country & western radio show at the tender age of 22 months. He started playing bass in his early teens and in 1957 left America’s heartland for Los Angeles, where he met and played with such legends as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon.

In 1959, Haden teamed with Ornette Coleman to form the saxophonist’s pioneering quartet (alongside trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins). In addition to his still-influential work with Coleman, Haden also collaborated with a number of adventurous jazz giants, including John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny.

In 1969, Haden joined forces with pianist/composer Carla Bley, founding the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group’s self-titled debut is a true milestone of modern music, blending experimental big band jazz with the folk songs of the Spanish Civil War to create a powerfully original work of musical/political activism.

An acoustic bassist of extraordinary gifts, Haden’s talents as a musician have been in constant demand by his fellow artists. As a result, he has collaborated with a genuinely stunning array of musicians, including Hank Jones, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Kenny Barron, and Pat Metheny (with whom Haden shared a 1997 “Best Jazz Instrumental Individual/Small Group” Grammy® Award for their Beyond the Missouri Sky).

Haden’s love of world music has also seen him teaming with a variety of diverse international players, including Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti, Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, and Portuguese guitar giant Carlos Paredes. In addition, Haden has explored diverse streams of American popular music with both his acclaimed Quartet West, as well as on such recent collections as 2002’s inventive alliance with Michael Brecker, American Dreams.

Haden was invited to establish the jazz studies program at California Institute of the Arts in 1982 and has earned countless honors from around the globe, including and the Los Angeles Jazz Society prize for “Jazz Educator of the Year”, two Grammy Awards (alongside a multitude of nominations), myriad Down Beat readers and critics poll winners, a Guggenheim fellowship, four NEA grants for composition, France’s Grand Prix Du Disque (Charles Cros) Award, Japan’s SWING Journal Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award.

On Friday, July 11, 2014, Charlie Haden left this world. He is survived by his wife Ruth Cameron, his four children, Josh, Tanya, Petra and Rachel, a brother, Carl, a sister, Mary, and three grandchildren. Tanya Haden is married to singer and actor Jack Black.

Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

We’re not aware of any NYC Metro area tributes or memorials to Haden at this time. Follow our “On the Bandstand” segment on air and on our blog and we’ll pass on info as we get it.

Web Extras:

Watch Haden and Pat Metheny perform live in 2008.



Watch Haden conduct (and play with) the Liberation Music Orchestra in this 1987 performance with Dewey Redman live in Africa.

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