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Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra in New York

To the now happily relevant question Where were you when America voted for its first black president?, a roomful of music lovers can say they were at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village, as the politically fueled Liberation Music Orchestra was smack dab in the middle of its late set. Word came to the bandstand via pianist Allan Broadbent (subbing for the unfortunately absent pianist-arranger-mastermind Carla Bley), who passed it on to bassist-leader Charlie Haden, who ignited an ecstatic and extended roar of applause in the crowd and onstage. “I’m so happy,” effused Haden. “Now I don’t have to wake up depressed every day. Now it’s time for ‘Amazing Grace.'” Via Bley’s bittersweet reworking (does any arranger do bittersweet better?), “Amazing Grace” sounded amazing in a whole new way, heard at the dawn of a hopeful, entirely new era.

Premiered in the summer of 2004 and not released on a Verve recording until 2005, the American Dream-turned-nightmare bent of the LMO project known as Not in Our Name was cooked up by Haden and his all-important arranger and co-conspirator Bley before the last election. Haden sadly recalls performing the songbook at the Village Vanguard on election night four years ago, as Bush’s win deflated hopes far and wide. Cut to election night 2008, though, and the NYC club in question was a house of bliss. The band’s strategically booked election-night gig, capping off a U.S. tour of the music, took the message on the campaign trail, as it were. Did the tour have any effect on the proverbial “undecided” demographic? Hard to know, but it’s fair to say that the band’s efforts have won some new votes of support for the band itself.

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