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Not In Our Name

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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews

Wonderful -- pensive -- sophisticated -- touching

I am not exactly a full-blown jazz devotee, nor do I like music that is "easy listening"; but however "easy" this album may seem at first, it is absolutely worth having in your collection. Whatever your political views, this is great music. I particularly appreciate the relaxed tempos that do not detract from intensity. Pandiatonicism and unresolving discordant harmonies give this album a pathos and depth rarely found outside the realm of "classical" music. Credit should be split equally between the originators and interpreters of these pieces (and the former include Barber and Dvorak). You won't regret buying this.

Soft and Beautiful With Purpose

I must admit that my original reaction to a redo by bassist Charlie Haden and pianist/arranger Carla Bley of their 1969 Vietnam War era project was one of skepticism. The mixture of politics and art, particularly music, has resulted in some wondrous creations, and an equal (or greater) amount of ghastly, overindulgent throwaways. This record, recorded from July 19-22, 2004, and released on August 30, 2005, fits squarely in the former category. It is a beautiful, soft record that, on repeated listenings, offers a powerful artistic statement on the current state of affairs. Besides Haden on bass and Bley on piano, the present incarnation of the orchestra includes 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. Although the entire session is solid, particular standouts include a version of Pat Metheny and David Bowie’s anthem This Is Not America, a near seventeen minute blowout of America The Beautiful, and a brilliantly arranged production of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. This is jazz, folk, and Americana music at its finest.

Tender, Poignant...

I am so impressed with what Charlie Haden and friends have done here. This music is passionate, playful, tender, poignant, sad, and even in your face annoyed. I'm not sure what "Not in Our Name" refers to, but there is a great deal wrong in this world right now. The emotion and soul of this music seems to be an antidote. And yet there is a decidedly patriotic feel to each of the pieces here as well...intelligent patriotism. For anyone looking to turn someone on to real jazz through something that has relatedable energy and accessibility, I recommend this album highly. I recommend it to any jazz head as well. One of my favorite album discoveries for 2007.


Born: August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, IA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As a member of saxophonist Ornette Coleman's early bands, bassist Charlie Haden became known as one of free jazz's founding fathers. Haden never settled into any of jazz's many stylistic niches, however. Certainly he played his share of dissonant music -- in the '60 and '70s, as a sideman with Coleman and Keith Jarrett, and as a leader of the Liberation Music Orchestra, for instance -- but for the most part, he seemed drawn to consonance. Witness his trio with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and guitarist...
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