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Behind the Music: The Jazz Arrangers

Joe Lovano (left) with Michael Abene
Vince Mendoza

On any given night, in countless corners around the planet, the fine and not fully appreciated art of jazz arranging carries on like a secret musical power source. The handiwork of arrangers can always be found, hiding in plain sight and sound.

Take, for instance, the Night of Obama. In Greenwich Village, the politically colored Liberation Music Orchestra, the band that Charlie Haden and Carla Bley built, had strategically booked election night at the Blue Note. Smack dab in the middle of the band’s late set, news of Obama’s victory hit the stage. Everyone in the house went suitably wild. Bley was not in the house, but her ravishing and witty arrangements were very much present and filling the audience’s ears and hearts and minds, including a teetering yet triumphant “America the Beautiful” seeping into Ornette Coleman’s “Skies of America.” Her angularly gospelish new take on “Amazing Grace” was called by Haden, immediately after the Obama victory news.

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