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Album Review

Dream Keeper is the third Liberation Orchestra recording from Charlie Haden. This time out he pairs orchestra alumni Carla Bley (who wrote all the arrangements), drummer Paul Motian, and tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman with additional jazz heavyweights, like trumpeter Tom Harrell, tenor saxophonists Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis, trombonist Ray Anderson, and pianist Amina Claudine Myers. Taking the racial and political strife in South Africa and El Salvador as their spiritual focus, Haden and Bley deftly blend South American and African music, jazz, and gospel over the album's five selections. Bley's opening suite, "Dream Keeper," features a particularly effective alternation of somber, sometimes ethereal-sounding choral parts (performed by the Oakland Youth Chorus) and Central American motifs and rhythms (Harrell deserves special mention for his beautiful trumpet work throughout this extended piece). The other lengthy number in the program, "Nkosi Silelel'I Afrika," is an arrangement of "The Anthem of the African National Congress"; it's a fluid, hard swinging piece, which features standout solos by Redman and alto saxophonist Ken McIntyre. Shorter, more whimsically swinging numbers, like "Rabo de Nube" and "Sandino," balance out the set and include fine statements by Lovano and guitarist Mick Goodrick. Haden closes the record with his New Orleans jazz/gospel hybrid tune "Spiritual." An excellent album and one of Haden's best.

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