Never Wanted a Blog, Never Expected a Trump…

220px-liberation_music_orchestra-1I never wanted a blog. I resisted having a blog. The only thing I hated more than that invented word, blog, was its bastard form as a verb.

And then I found myself doing that, blogging.

When asked me to create a jazz blog in 2012 I said yes. I knew my stuff—about jazz and culture, about New York and New Orleans, about ideas beyond those categories and places—would get read by folks outside my usual music-world echo chamber, owing to Blouin Media’s broad international reach and visual-arts focus. Plus, the site looks terrific. The things that I couldn’t fit into The Wall Street Journal, of which there were many, spilled into “Blu Notes.”

Still, I really never wanted to blog.

And until the blog disappeared in late October—a problem since resolved by Artinfo’s tech gurus—I didn’t think I’d miss it.

For month or so, I felt like I’d evaporated from the digital sphere. The distressing “page not found” message made it seem as if I’d been ripped out of a binding or blown away by a stiff wind.

To a degree, I was not found: I felt lost.

I guess I did, and do, want to blog.

So now I’m back in business: Blu Notes rides again. Please saddle up with me once more…

For now, I’ll take the easy way out by attempting to lure you to a Daily Beast piece of mine, the first thing I wrote of any substance after that thing happened on November 8.

It’s about a new release from the Liberation Music Orchestra, which was led by bassist Charlie Haden from 1968—that’s the cover of the group’s debut album up top—until his death in 2014. (I wrote a more straightforward album review for The Wall Street Journal.)

My piece is about the promise and purpose of that band in world suddenly colder and confusing, and about what elections might have to do with jazz and vice versa.

That story, which to my delight, ran not under the heading “jazz” but under “healing,” began with the excerpt below:


Jazz Great Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra Is a Balm for the Post-Election Blues

The late Charlie Haden and his Liberation Music Orchestra made powerful, sophisticated protest music. His final recording arrives just when we need it most.


Did Charlie Haden know we’d be living in Donald Trump’s America?

The great bassist, who died in 2014 at 76, first served notice as a musical revolutionary in Ornette Coleman’s quartet in 1959. Through a career that never waned, Haden’s warm and woody tone, his disarming way with a melody and intuitive connection with fellow improvisers made for unusual clarity and intimacy in any context. He was also perhaps jazz’s truest and most effective radical in the political sense. He assembled his Liberation Music Orchestra — the defining expression of his ideals — in 1969, to make his version of Vietnam War-era protest music. He reconvened the group whenever a Republican was in the White House: The orchestra’s 2005 release, Not in Our Name, was a defiant statement against the Bush administration’s Iraq War.

Haden had begun planning another Liberation Music Orchestra album several years ago, before post-polio syndrome set in (related to a teenaged bout with the disease) and eventually took his life. A new CD fulfills that ambition. Time/Life: Song for the Whales and Other Beings (Impulse!) begins and ends with the final recordings of Haden leading this group during a 2011 concert in Belgium and, in between, features three studio tracks made in 2015, with the orchestra led by Carla Bley. It was released on Nov. 4. Even then, Bley — the pianist and arranger for Haden’s orchestra from its start — and Ruth Cameron Haden — his widow, and the album’s producer — thought, as did the rest of us, that victory was imminent for Hillary Clinton.

The album now seems suddenly, alarmingly, timely.

For more, go here.

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