Trumpeter Don Cherry is best known for his side man roll in the Ornette Coleman Quartet. Don contributed to some of the most groundbreaking and controversial albums in the history of recorded music, Free Jazz, The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Change of the Century to name a few.
Don also Produced a live album Called Eternal Rhythm that is highly sought after and extremely free and out there. Brown Rice from the mid 70’s shows a calmer Don Cherry with an irresistible world music vibe.
The topic here is Blue Note Records, and the 3 albums Don put together for the label between 1965 and 1967. Complete Communion, Symphony for improvisers, and the underrated Where is Brooklyn are featured..
The music on Don’s 3 Blue Note Albums is certainly challenging, and them some. This music, much like Ornette’s music, has plenty of melody, and does not sound angry like Peter Brotzmann’s Machine Gun for instance, an album from 1968.
Though Gato Barbieri, on Communion, and Pharoah Sanders on improvisers, and Brooklyn do remind you it’s the 60’s, and a lot of people were extremely angry at the world, and not afraid to express it for various reasons, this anger comes out in the volatile music, but Cherry’s music also leaves room for hope for a better day.
Overall I feel the music does not have an ominous vibe like Coltrane’s music always had in his later period, there is nothing wrong with that at all of course, but I do want to illustrate the difference I hear?
I think these Blue Note albums touched on below would be a good place to start with free jazz, If you don’t acquire the taste, I don’t think you will ever have hope for any thing like Coltrane’s later period music.
Complete Communion was Don Cherry’s first session for Blue Note, recorded in 1965, and features Tenor Saxophonist Gato Barbieri, who’s tenor tone suits the music to a tee.
A pair of side long suites, Complete Communion / And Now / Golden Heart / Remembrance” – 20:38 and Elephantasy / Our Feelings / Bishmallah / Wind, Sand, and Stars” – 19:36- Both of these Compositions are wide open structures, with each suite divided into multi-sound collages.
Cherry’s Trumpet work has always been underrated in my mind, he does have a unique sound, a light jovial style, that is the perfect foil for angry toned tenors, Like Barbieri or Sanders this time out, I think that cherry played the “pocket trumpet” hindered him being taken as seriously as other musicians of his time, a real pity.
Symphony For improvisers:
Symphony For improvisers Was Don Cherry’s second for the Blue Note label, released in 1966. This time a septet, instead of the quartet of Complete Communion, Barbieri is back, and tenor man Pharoah Sanders comes into the fold, he adds colors with his piccolo, Karl Berger adds Vibraphone to the mix, it adds a nice contrast to the Sanders tenor growls.
There is more subtlety in the compositions, the extra instruments for me really add to the dramatic effect. This is quite simply one of the best “Composed” Free jazz albums I have heard. I have always felt the best free jazz is the variety that isn’t totally free, the soloists are free in a sense, but structures are given, and musicians are at least pointed in a direction.
Where is Brooklyn:
Where is Brooklyn, The last album Don Cherry made for Blue Note was released in 1967, and does not fail to impress. “Brooklyn” doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves.
This time we go back to the quartet format, with Pharoah Sanders filling the Barbieri Role. ‘Unite” is the lone long composition clocking in at over 17 minutes, the other tunes range from , just under 5 minutes, to just under 7 minutes.
An interesting track “The Thing” (included below) I believe appeared as theme music for the cartoon/comic book hero from the Fantastic Four of the same name during an animated series that ran in the late 1960’s.
For those of you who are vinyl collectors, you can still find decent prices on Don’s Blue Note records. I picked up 3 mid 70’s reissues for under 25 dollars a piece several years ago.
Original pressings will set you back a few hundred dollars each though, It seems that the sky may be the limit for the rising prices on mint Blue Note vinyl.
It probably won’t be long before these later reissue will be priced beyond the common man’s pocket-book.
*Photo is my own*
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Jason Sositko, a freelance writer and entrepreneur is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I also use services such as Viglink and Skimlinks to earn income via links placed inside articles.