by Scott Gotschall
Students in the Jacobs School of Music Jazz Studies Department benefit from a world class education and working with faculty at the top of their field. An equally important benefit is being in an environment of talented peers with diverse musical interests and the opportunity to collaborate with these peers. One student group that has now been together for more than a year and has displayed discipline and creativity in both their music and their message is the Liberation Music Collective. Founded as a musical outlet to process recent events in Ferguson, MO and the Black Lives Matter movement, the LMC was formed with an entrepreneurial spirit and social awareness that echoes the significant statements of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
The Liberation Music Collective was founded in 2015 by bassist and vocalist Hannah Fidler, and trumpeter Matt Riggen. In their own words:
We bring a fresh 21st-century approach to the tradition of protest music in jazz, following in the footsteps of Charlie Haden, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and many others. In addition to the jazz canon, we draw from the plurality of genres present in America, including hip-hop, Afro-Cuban music, Sacred Harp hymns, Islamic liturgy, and post-modern classical music. By focusing on social issues and embracing this plurality of styles within a jazz context, we hope to bring jazz back into the socially provocative music of our era.
In their beginning stages, the LMC looked to IU Jazz Professor Wayne Wallace as a mentor. A band leader himself with decades of experience, Wallace also runs his own record label, Patois Records. With Wallace’s guidance the initial idea started to take form. Wallace embraces the idea of music as social commentary that Fidler and Riggen are presenting. He notes, “Improvisational music constantly looks for inspiration from, not only new ideas, but re-examining the roots of what has come before. I believe this is the direction that young jazz musicians are embracing wholeheartedly. The Liberation Music Collective is a prime example of this growing movement.”
Liberation Music Collective released their first album, Siglo XXI, in 2015, and they have been performing regularly in Bloomington and beyond, spreading their music and their message. Last February, LMC collaborated with Yaël Ksander and the Brown County Writers, Readers and Poets Society (WRAPS) for their Utopia project, which explored the history of “perfect communities” that were founded in Indiana. Fidler remarked that she particularly enjoyed the experience, “It was phenomenal to work with Yaël Ksander and the writers from WRAPS. That was a very fruitful collaboration. I think there was also something uniquely rewarding about staging a full-length jazz drama.” The Utopia project was also sponsored by Project Jumpstart within the Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development at the Jacobs School of Music. Alain Barker, the director of OECD, also mentors the group.
The Liberation Music Collective has also found the surrounding community to be supportive of their performances. Some of the venues LMC has been featured include the Jazz Fables series at Bear’s Place, Bloomington Cooperative Living (as part of a fundraiser for Middle Way House Domestic Violence Shelter), Merriman’s Playhouse in South Bend, IN, the B’town Jazzfest, IU’s First Thursdays Arts & Humanities Festival, and The Blockhouse.
Currently, the group is filming their first music video, planning to work with a local high school running a composition workshop, composing their own jazz suite about the election, and planning to record their second album. To stay informed on the group’s performances, visit their website and their Facebook page. Hear the Liberation Music Collective and learn more about their music on their Youtube channel.