Big Charlie Thomas was one of many cornetists who recorded as sideman and accompanist during the 1920s, and have since drifted to the margins of jazz history. Like Ed Allen, he worked in groups that often had something or other to do with pianist and music publisher Clarence Williams. If Thomas' brief recording career is mapped out in discographical relief, the details are sketchy but fascinating. During the years 1925-1926 he is believed to have recorded with vocalists Rosa Henderson, Bessie Brown, Sara Martin, Mandy Lee, and Clarence Williams' wife Eva Taylor. In addition to various backing units, he blew his horn with the Dixie Washboard Band, the OKeh Melody Stars, Thomas Morris & His Seven Hot Babies, Buddy Christian's Jazz Rippers, and of course Clarence Williams' Blue Five. His involvement with this last ensemble places Thomas in the same circle as Morris, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. So elusive are the recordings of Big Charlie Thomas that were it not for an album of rarities assembled and released during the '90s by the Timeless label, it would be difficult to access his legacy at all.
In 2011, bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Carla Bley led an iteration of the Liberation Music Orchestra in a live concert at the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Antwerp, Belgium. It was partially intended as a warm-up for a forthcoming Liberation Music Orchestra album, a process that had been in the works since 2007. Sadly, Haden died from post-polio syndrome in 2014 before any new LMO tracks could be recorded. Thankfully, Haden, along with his wife, Ruth Cameron Haden, and Bley had discussed his desires for how to finish the album prior to his passing. Furthermore, the 2011 performance, which included two new arrangements earmarked for the planned album, had been recorded for Belgian public radio. All this meant that an album was possible, and in 2015 Bley convened the LMO in a studio to record the new material. Per Haden's request, longtime friend and esteemed bassist Steve Swallow was brought in to play his parts.
A fascinating set from three strong and contrasting musical personalities: Norwegian saxophonist, Brazilian guitarist-pianist, and US bassist making purposeful and creative music together on this previously unreleased live recording. “Carta de Amor” documents music captured at Munich’s Amerika Haus in April, 1981. Two years on from the much-loved albums “Magico” (ECM 1151) and “Folk Songs” (ECM 1170), the trio’s improvisational empathy and sensibilities were further honed by experiences as a touring group. Repertoire includes five pieces from Gismonti’s pen, with the title track heard in two variations, opening and closing this enthralling double album.