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. ~ Matt Collar