Charlie Haden brings another incarnation of his Liberation Music Orchestra to tape. This intermittent project began at the height of the Vietnam War in 1969 and was recorded for Impulse. Carla Bley has been the only constant member of this project. She plays piano and does the arranging of these eight tunes. Other members include trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, guitarist Steve Cardenas, drummer Matt Wilson, Miguel Zenon on alto, Chris Cheek on the tenor horn, Joe Daley playing tuba, and Ahnee Sharon Freeman playing French horn. The music is a lively and diverse set of covers, except for the title track -- composed by Haden -- and "Blue Anthem" by Bley. The seamlessness with which Bley melds her aesthetic to Haden's is remarkable. The tone and timbre is warm throughout. The reggae-fueled "This Is Not America" -- written by Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and David Bowie -- dryly quotes from "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at its end. The hinge piece of the album is the nearly-17-minute "American the Beautiful" that contains a wondrous, stately, if somewhat dissonant, read of Samuel Ward's famous tune, bursts into post-bop before a fine solo by Zenon, and then slips into Gary McFarland's jazz opus by the same name. The tune travels -- with solos by virtually everyone -- then to the African-American gospel church where it stops at "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson, and winds up at a cross between the original tune and Ornette Coleman's elegiac slipstream dream anthem "Skies of America" before returning full circle to the original theme. The Liberation Music Orchestra goes even deeper into the national consciousness with a bluesy, New Orleans brass band-inspired version of "Amazing Grace." Then they dig into the gorgeous "Goin' Home," Antonin Dvorak's largo theme from the New World Symphony -- with jazz liberties taken, of course. The set ends with the adagio from Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." Again, Bley's arrangement is stunning, understated, and finessed, yet full of dynamic reach. This is a beautiful album, one that makes a case for vision, creativity, and concern. Not in Our Name pulls together a wide range of aesthetic possibilities that all reflect the American consciousness and simultaneously mourns the passage of it while resisting with a vengeance that nadir. While a jazz recording, this album crosses the boundaries of the genre and becomes a new world music, a new folk music: one to be celebrated, perhaps even cherished.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek