Music Notes – August 2014

Charlie Haden

 Charlie Haden RIP

The great jazz bassist Charlie Haden died in Los Angeles on July 11th after a prolonged illness. He was 76. In the late fifties Haden was an member of the revolutionary Ornette Coleman Quartet. The group’s music led a “free jazz” revolution that shook up the jazz world and exerted a lasting influence on subsequent generations of musicians. Haden was to go on to explore diverse musical paths that invariably combined his ever-evolving aesthetic preoccupations with his progressive political and social beliefs. The latter were most definitively realized in the Liberation Music Orchestra, an intermittent project that was essentially a collaboration between Haden and pianist-arranger Carla Bley. In 36 years, the Liberation Music Orchestra released just four albums, but each one is a creative venture into a musical world where avant-garde jazz meets revolutionary people’s music. They remain statements of and for their time, protesting the war in Vietnam, lamenting the death of Che Guevara, opposing U.S. intervention in Central America, and finally saying “Not In Our Name” to the post 9/11 wars of the Empire. Charlie Haden left a legacy of beautiful and relevant music for subsequent generations to discover.

Quebec musicians break with AFM

Quebec musicians have voted to disaffiliate from the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and its Toronto-based branch, the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM). In a referendum held June 2-8, members of the Guilde des Musiciens et Musiciennes du Québec (GMMQ) voted 53.3% in favour of the break. About 70% of the union’s 3,000 members cast ballots. Guitarist Luc Fortin, President of GMMQ, declared on June 11th that the results confirm “a majority of Québec musicians no longer have faith in the current model of affiliation with the AFM, and want a stronger association of Québec professional musicians that can represent them effectively and be fully empowered to negotiate working conditions adapted to Québec’s reality”. The AFM’s response came the next day with a letter from the International Executive Board (IEB) in New York informing Fortin that a member of Montreal Local 406 has filed charges against him for abuse of power. Fortin replied that according to AFM rules, charges must be brought before Local 406’s executive, not the IEB. Among the contentious issues is the matter of affiliation fees and subsidies, especially in light of the union’s obligations under Québec’s Status of the Artist Act. The transition could be challenging for the GMMQ. Many agreements with cultural institutions will have to be renegotiated. For more info: http://www.gmmq.com/en

Music teachers fired for joining union

Two music teachers at a non-profit community centre in Toronto’s Jane-Finch area are taking their employer to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Ruben “Beny” Esguerra and Omar Sanchez say they were fired for joining a union that had been formed last October to represent the 20 workers of the non-profit San Romanoway Revitalization Association (SRRA). The musicians allege that the shutting down on April 30th of the SRRA-managed Palisades Media Arts Academy (PMAA), where they taught music and recording skills to Jane-Finch youth, was a consequence of the unionization of the parent organization. The SRRA argues that the money (a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation) ran out, but lawyers from CUPE, who are representing Esguerra and Sanchez, point out that the Trillium grant was for three years, while the program only commenced two years ago. The OLRB hearings begin in September. Meanwhile residents of the neighbourhood have launched a campaign to reopen the PMAA. The closing of the program, which provided free music and art classes to youth of ages 14-29, leaves a void in the lives of many young people in this poor and stigmatized neighbourhood. For more info: http://www.savepmaa.wordpress.com.

Young’s Tel Aviv Gig cancelled

After a world-wide campaign by cultural boycott supporters, large protests outside his concerts, and an impassioned open letter from musical peer Roger Waters, Neil Young ended up not playing his controversial July 17th concert in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, it was the Israeli promoter who cancelled (blaming Hamas rockets), and not Young. After the cancellation the singer had an opportunity to condemn the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, but chose to remain silent. His only message came indirectly from a spokesperson who lamented that “tensions” had “rendered the event unsafe at this time”. The statement, in effect, echoes the official Israeli position. It’s hard to believe that Young, who garnered accolades for supporting First Nations struggles against tar sands development, and who once took a stand against the Vietnam and Gulf wars, is unable to see the parallels between the struggles of North America’s First Nations and the Palestinian people. One can easily imagine the pressure that the Israeli regime and its supporters apply to artists who might consider supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. But in his silence Neil Young is unfortunately complicit in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

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