FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rebel Music

The opening bars of “Passing Away for Giles Corey” sets the stage for the Liberation Music Collective’s sophomore effort, Rebel Portraiture. Corey was a landowner in the Massachusetts colony who was pressed to death in an effort to make him confess to being a witch. Although his particular tale has some less than heroic twists of its own, it is his refusal to bow down to the powerful that allows his presence on this collection of tunes honoring later rebels against the established order.

Rebel Portraiture is a series of compositions from the Liberation Music Collective’s founders and leaders, Hannah Fidler and Matt Riggen. Political activists, scientists and jazz musicians/composers, these two have created a contemplative and enchanting work that combines politics, history and a unique, innovative musical sense. Made up of somber melodies in minor keys and subdued celebrations in the major, it encourages both reflection and hope. The musical collective sometimes reminds this listener of a big band while at other times it is of a small combo that sounds like it is performing in a forest clearing.

Each piece on this disc memorializes an individual or a group of individuals who were killed by the forces representing the rich and powerful because they stood up against those forces. After the tune honoring the aforementioned Giles is a song dedicated to Jeffrey Miller, one of those killed by troops at Kent State in May 1970. That short tribute is followed by a melodic episode dedicated to all those killed and wounded on that day. The song opens with a light rhythm played on the cymbal while a piano slowly comes into earshot, making way for a flattened chord played by the horns. The chord is silenced with a guitar solo which weaves its magic while the drummer provides a subtle stroke. Ultimately, the horns make their way back into the melody, with a trumpet solo giving way to a reeded collaborator.

Next up is a tribute to the Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered by military forces enforcing the will of transnational banks and corporations in the forests of that Central American nation. One hears the birds and the beasts, the joy of children and the ominous sound of machinery destroying homelands of those birds, beasts and humans alike in the name of profit. This visit to the Honduran rainforest is followed by a tune titled “River of Life” that cascades then drifts into one’s consciousness in a manner appropriate to its title, the next set of tunes honor a Syrian woman journalist murdered by members of IS in her native Raqqa, a South African woman named Noxolo Nogwaza, an LBGTQ organizer who was raped and brutally murdered, then left by the road. In honoring these two individuals, the Collective also honors all the rest of the forgotten journalists and LBGTQ humans who have been killed for their work.

The second to last song on the disc is a choral work titled “Afterlife for the Unnamed,” performed without instruments, places me inside a worship service where joy is the watchword and order of the day. Voices singing about a judgment day in arpeggios of chant. The song is a bold challenge to the powerful whose actions only seek to destroy the wills of humans like those honored in this collective work. Jazz piano alternately leading and fading into the background, the voice and percussion describe a resistance stronger than any army or bank account; a resistance that has existed since the beginning of time and is greater than any individual.

This album is simultaneously a memorial and an organizer’s leaflet. It does more than just remember those who have died in the struggle for social justice, against war, and for liberation. It also reminds us that it is ordinary people who make up those movements and who move humanity closer to those movement’s goals. It also reminds us that those who give their lives in the process are not wasting those lives. Like the lives remembered here, the Liberation Music Collective’s compositions and performance are a light in a history (and present) filled with too much darkness. These tributes to those who have fallen in the struggle for freedom and justice are appropriately haunting, yet equally celebratory.

Jazz music is historically the music of the forgotten and ignored; of the oppressed and the rebellious. This is especially true in the work of musicians like Archie Shepp, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gil Scott Heron, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and on and on. Likewise, jazz as a musical form exists because it has always pushed the definition of music beyond convention; Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler are one set of such musicians that comes first to this reviewer’s mind. The Liberation Music Collective has brought together these two traditions and created a collection of works that represents those traditions at their best.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail