The Vietnam War era was known for its protest music-- musicians from all walks found themselves with a mouthpiece and used it. Remarkably, as the country finds itself in a similar situation, it is far less common to hear recorded anti-war sentiment-- maybe it is the lesson learned from the Dixie Chicks-- being viewed as "unpatriotic" (and these days the government and conservative talking heads use that term to indicate disagreeing with the President) is bad for business-- during Vietnam, pop, rock and folk musicians from the Beach Boys to Neil Young wrote protest pieces-- where are these now?
Thankfully, integrity can still be found in some places. Bassist, bandleader and composer Charlie Haden, together with pianist Carla Bley, has resurrected the Liberation Music Orchestra. A project designed to express distaste in the American government policies-- this new version of the band performs pieces by American composers, voiced and assembled as a statement against the policies of the United States government, and while there's no words to express the message, the music speaks loud and clear.
Opening with a solo classical guitar, it should be clear immediately this is not your everyday jazz album. And while "Not In our Name" moves into a big band arrangement, with horns picking up the theme and powerful solos (most notably from guitarist Steve Cardenas), there's an edge to this not commonly found in music. This is maintained throughout the album, from the dubbish "This Is Not America (originally by Pat Metheny and David Bowie, featuring an oddly voiced quote from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" towards the end) to the minor key medley "America the Beautiful", which takes that piece of patriotic music and voices it to sound mournful and regrettable, pained and unoptimistic to Samuel Barber's "Adagio", this is powerful music, certainly amongst the best big band performance I've heard in the past several years.
Haden's arrival with this project is just in time from my perspective, I was starting to lose faith in anyone musically speaking out. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. Highly recommended.