Monday, September 7, 2015


Oliver Lake

The late jazz bassist Charlie Haden formed the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969 and outfitted it with some of the leading free-jazz lions of that era trumpeter Don Cherry, saxophonist Gato Barbieri, and pianist Carla Bley.  The orchestra’s self-titled debut album was suffused with aggressive protest music. Haden’s mission statement for the orchestra was, “This music is dedicated to those who will dream of a society with compassion deep creative intelligence, and respect for the preciousness of life for our children, and for our future”.

At the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage Sunday evening Haden’s wife, Ruth, reiterated Haden’s vision for the orchestra before she introduced CHLMO’s members and ran down the set-list. Presently the CHLMO has many great musicians such as bassist Steve Swallow, drummer Matt Wilson, and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. Pianist Carla Bley runs the orchestra.

Sunday evening performance was my first time experiencing the orchestra live. The performance wasn’t what I’d expected. I wasn’t in any way disappointed. I loved the music, and Tenor saxophonist Malaby and guitarist Steve Cardenas can count me as a new fan of theirs. I expected a set of aggressive protest music. 

“This Is No America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Amazing Grace” were some of the songs presented. On every selection, the members played from the deepest regions of  their hearts. I was damn near in tears listening to “Amazing Grace,” which had some mood changes, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. The moment that stuck to my ribs occurred when the horn section parted, and the spotlight hit Matt Wilson as he put his drum kit through a cardio-like workout.


The Oliver Lake Organ Quartet has one foot planted in the avant-garde jazz, and the other foot rooted in straight-ahead jazz. The quartet played both styles. A blind person could see Lake designed this organ quartet, which almost blew up the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage Sunday night, around organist Jared Gold’s chops. Gold is the quartet’s life force and deserves major props because he pushed the quartet to the brink. Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix deserves much love also
Hendricks hands down was the crowd favorite. He hung out in the upper register of the trumpet on most of the tunes. During several solos, he nearly blew the moon out the sky. Lake has been a star avant-garde alto saxophonist for decades. He proved solo after solo, Sunday night that his chops are still mint after all these years on the frontline, and his improvisation has a youthful exuberance. One of the highpoints of the quartet’s terrific show happened mid-way through a song. Lake surprised the audience by reading a poem he wrote titled “You Look Marvelous” dedicated to the late poet Amiri Baraka.
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