Nick Haywood: ‘Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra have been an inspiration’

The news that Nick Haywood – one of the most highly acclaimed bassists in the Australian jazz community – is setting up a Charlie Haden tribute, would hardly qualify as a news; if anyone is suited for this kind of thing, it is him But there’s more to it. Because the project in question is a celebration of the legacy of Liberation Music Orchestra, Haden’s batallion for musical activism (which he co-led with the brilliant Carla Bley), and the music will be performed by an outfit that goes by the name ‘Hobart Liberation Orchestra’ – and it features Petra Haden, an adventurous spirit and singer extraordinaire who is much more than Charlie’s daughter. All this will take place this weekend at the MONA FOMA, one of Australia’s greatest music festivals. So, listen to Nick Haywood playing a Charlie Haden tune…

…and read what he has to say about all this.

How did this project come to be?
I had spoken at length with Brian Ritchie (MONAFOMA artistic director) about the music of Charlie Haden. We decided that it would be great pay homage to his Liberation Music Orchestra (LMO) music and to present some Australian songs of protest alongside LMO music, all done in our own way.

Why Charlie Haden?
Charlie Haden is a significant figure in 20th Century music and has been a huge influence on me throughout my career. The theme of songs of protest that we are presenting at the festival also fits well with Haden’s music we will be performing – LMO music inspired by the Spanish Civil war and the Cuban revolution amongst others, as well as some Australian songs of protest by the likes of Midnight Oil and Archie Roach. We are doing Archie Roach’s ‘Took the Children Away’ and Midnight Oil’s ‘Put Down That Weapon’ and ‘Beds are Burning’, which are all great songs and fit the theme of the concerts really well.

Which is your favourite Charlie Haden album?
I can’t really pick a favourite. There is obviously all of the Ornette Coleman music, LMO, albums with Keith Jarrett, Paul Motian, Quartet West, etc. I love many of his tunes, including ‘Song for Che’, ‘La Passionara’, ‘There in a Dream’ and many others. We are doing those three in the festival gigs.

How did you reach out to Petra Haden?
Brian Ritchie is a friend of Petra’s and organised everything. It was pretty easy, I think, as it is such an interesting project and performing at MONA during MONAFOMA is a pretty attractive thing to do. It is fantastic that she will be travelling to Australia to join us for these performances.

If you could have any member of the Liberation Music Orchestra (or any other of Charlie Haden’s ventures) to also take part in this, who would you choose?
Wow, there are so many. Ornette comes to mind immediately. I guess people like Mick Goodrick, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Geri Allen, Joe Lovano would be on the list, as would many others.

How did you choose the set list?
I first looked at the original 1970 album and selected some tunes from that. Then I thought about Australian protest songs and picked some that would suit. Petra had some great suggestions that went straight to the list. I then put the list together and circulated within the band to see if anyone wanted to do an arrangement or two. There are six of us doing arrangements and we have around 14 tunes to play. We will probably change things around a bit between the first and second show, so there will be some different repertoire – although the same repertoire will be very different each time we play it. I am also doing a small group show with Petra Haden and guitarists Damien Kingston and Julius Schwing. This will also be a lot of fun and will be different tunes again.

What is your aspiration for this project?
I would love to develop the project further so that the ensemble becomes a significant Australian Art Music group. I have a few ideas and hopefully it will become a long-term project.

Throughout the years, Liberation Music Orchestra has been a great example of musical activism, of music as engaged citizenship; has this been an inspiration for you?
Yes the LMO has been an inspiration and the inclusion of Australian songs with very relevant subject matter was deliberate. I think music serves different purposes and performing music that creates political awareness can be important. I also strongly believe that music that is created without any agenda other than the musical expression of the performers is just as important.

Which tune best describes your current state of mind?

In the Moment


MOFO at MONA presents: A tribute to Charlie Haden, by the Hobart Liberation Orchestra feat. Petra Haden, on Friday 19 and Sunday 21 January. Get your tickets here.