[Marxism] Haden Stalinist ? :>)

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Aug 3 11:46:40 MDT 2004

Here's a hopeful article about the great bassist Charlie Haden.

Can jazz stop Bush? John Fordham on the return of the
Liberation Music Orchestra

Monday August 2, 2004 The Guardian
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1274213,00.html> >

Charlie Haden was sitting in his car one night,
listening to the news. Vietnam's neighbour Cambodia was
being bombed by the US air force on the orders of
President Richard Nixon. Haden felt powerless as an
individual - but as a musician he was convinced he
could register dissent, and maybe make a difference. He
rang his friend and musical collaborator, composer
Carla Bley, and said: "Let's do an album about the
tragedy of what this administration is doing in the

The result was the Liberation Music Orchestra, which
made one of the most powerful jazz-driven musical
statements of the early 1970s with its self-titled
album. The band was a volatile, expensive one, and many
members were leaders in their own right, making it
difficult to keep it on the road. But in the past 35
years, the LMO has returned whenever the rallying call
was loud. It re-formed in 1982, when Ronald Reagan
invaded El Salvador, to record the album Ballad of the
Fallen. It came back in 1989, during George Bush Sr's
time, for a rousing We Shall Overcome at the Montreal
jazz festival, and to record the album Dreamkeeper.

And tonight the LMO performs at the Edinburgh festival
- the first time Haden and Bley have shared a live
performance in 20 years. Haden has long felt angry at
what he sees as the Republicans' theft of the election
four years ago, and the situation in Iraq has brought
that anger to the boil.

Haden has said he always believed in "an America worthy
of the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr, and the majesty
of the Statue of Liberty". A bespectacled, mild-looking
man in his 60s, with chronic bronchitis that worsens on
tour, he exudes a firm sense of purpose, disagreeing
with the suggestion that, in the end, music is just
music: "I wouldn't have done this over all these years
if I hadn't believed it made a difference. In recent
years in America, it's become very difficult for people
critical of the government to express their feelings.
Providing some kind of focus for that to happen is
power, in its way.

"People have often come up to us after Liberation Music
Orchestra gigs and said this music has helped give them
confidence to say what they really feel. The material
we use draws on a long tradition of people doing that,
all over the world."

By background and artistic disposition, Haden is no fan
of Republican politics. His father had close friends in
the Abraham Lincoln Brigade that fought in the Spanish
civil war; as a double-bassist, Haden participated in
black Texan saxophonist Ornette Coleman's 1950s
revolutions in jazz form. These two influences came
together when he heard of the Cambodian bombings. His
father had a collection of socialist and anarchist
songs of the Spanish civil war, music he and Bley had
already considered adapting for a jazz project. The
pair turned to this in 1969, examining the Spanish
songs and creating arrangements for a full jazz band.

The resulting album featured a suite of 1930s anarchist
songs vividly interpreted by the eloquent trumpet of
Don Cherry and the hot winds of Argentinian Gato
Barbieri's tenor sax. Haden also contributed the
brooding Song for Che, a powerful double-bass anthem,
plus Ornette Coleman's War Orphans. The sleeve showed
the personnel lined up against a brick wall, staring
uncompromisingly at the camera from under a banner. The
album won the Grand Prix Charles Cros in France (a
Grammy equivalent), Swing Journal's Gold Disc award in
Japan, and critics' accolades everywhere.

The current line-up includes hot young sax prospect
Miguel Zenon and Jazz Passengers trombonist Curtis
Fowlkes. Haden, though, says he always hears the band
as "timeless, in all its various incarnations". Its
music has varied widely, too: politics may inform it,
yet Haden is too much of a jazz improviser to settle
for a repertoire of marching songs or fists-in-the-air
music. On 1989's The Montreal Tapes, the orchestra
plays We Shall Overcome for over half an hour: not as a
cosy piece of linked-arms chanting but as an
increasingly free blues in which a pedigree team of
improvisers (including trumpeters Tom Harrell and
Stanton Davis, saxophonists Ernie Watts and Joe Lovano,
and trombonist Ray Anderson) independently jam
themselves into ecstatic spontaneous union.

Earlier this year, when Bley was in London for the
Barbican's tribute to film composer Nino Rota, she was
still at work on the new LMO scores, and worried Haden
would find them too oblique. She was absorbed by the
sounds of her Looking for America album, in which she
created sublimely sinister mirrors to imagery of John
Wayne frontiersmen and roadside shacks bearing Day of
Judgment warnings. That music has influenced the
current repertoire. "I guess I've taken it more as my
own project this time," Bley said then. "I hope Charlie
doesn't think it's too ironic."

"She was just worrying," Haden says, now the tour is
under way. "But there was nothing for her to worry
about. I don't ever compare the current orchestra to
the first one, because, although the music might be
different, the reason for its existence is the same.
Then it was Nixon, now it's George W. What they're
doing is the same. So what we're doing is the same,

* The Liberation Music Orchestra plays Queens Hall,
Edinburgh, tonight. Box office: 0131-668 3456.

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