Charlie Haden: acoustic bass; Carla Bley: piano, conduction; Tony Malaby: tenor sax; Chris Cheek: tenor sax; Loren Stillman: alto sax; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Seneca Black: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Vincent Chancey: french horn; Joseph Daley: tuba; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Matt Wilson: drums.
Charlie Haden, a phenomenal bassist, composer and inveterate activist, is no longer among us to follow the release of this record, the last one under his name. Time/Life (Song for the Whales and other Beings) comprises five tunes that fall under the direction of Carla Bley, co-founder of Haden’s revolutionary and politically charged Liberation Music Orchestra, first appeared in 1969.
The bassist, who died in 2014, only participates in the opening and closing tunes, Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” and his own original “Song for the Whales”, respectively, which were recorded in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2011. The remaining tracks, all of them Bley's compositions, came to life in two studio recording sessions in the winter of 2015, with Steve Swallow replacing the colossal Haden in the lineup.
The luminous “Blue In Green” is a touching piece that displays all the grandiosity and splendor of Haden’s sound, whether through his sturdy accompaniment or stylish improvisation. A soulful saxophone solo delivered by Chris Cheek consistently intensifies the colors of a canvas already rich in texture and artistic composition.
Stepping solid ground, “TimeLife” starts up as a pacific march of dreamy intonation. It features a well chewed-up sax improv that, after a few minutes, offers Matt Wilson the lead in order to construct a logic drum solo that gradually summons Bley, Cardenas, and every reedist.
The unmistakable woody sound of Swallow’s electric bass introduces “Silent Spring”, in a nostalgic start that shifts to plaintive in the moment when the dramatically orchestrated laments of the Orchestra arise. Bley, cleverly taking advantage of the horns, doubles the tempo for an energetic trumpet improvisation.
Fowlkes and Cardenas are responsible for taking the initial steps in the weeping “Utviklingssang”, which soars with a calm expressiveness before entering into another march pumped by an untamable snare drum.
Bowing the acoustic bass, Haden peppers his “Song for the Whales” at the same time that calls for an effusive intervention by Tony Malaby, who brings Gato Barbieri’s blistering tonalities into play.
This is an impactful swan song from a visionary bass legend whose perspicacity goes beyond just music. The importance of the whales, all the living creatures, and the beauty of the universe were also there.
01 – Blue in Green ► 03 – Silent Spring ► 05 – Song for the Whales