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2/21/12 10:22 PM
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Ali
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Because of some discussion and the Sun Ra thread, on which Hugo posted a duet with Sun Ra and Don Cherry.... I'll push forth a favorite jazz record.

It's hard to know where to begin to situate this music...

Don Cherry is mostly in the shadow (or the sun?) of Ornette Coleman, in whose band he played a major part when the whole "free jazz" movement was born, or more generally, the jazz avant-garde. He usually played a "pocket trumpet" (and in those days, Ornette was playing a bakelite horn) which gives a really raw, almost "unprofessional" tone. But that's one piece of the appeal -- a very human sounding cry. For my money he was always an amazing melodic improviser; where the ensembles were ragged for their time period it's because the music was very unstructured as far as how long (how many measures) the melodic solos would be, a very democratic view of solos vs. accompaniment. In some ways it's straight out of what Ornette Coleman was doing (and what Miles got to ten years later), but... for my money, for a long-form "free jazz" piece of music, Cherry's "Complete Communion" was better than Ornette's "Free Jazz" or much of what he did later in longer forms ("Skies Over America" and such). And also more natural to him, more melodic, more straight up listenable than, say Coltrane's "Ascension" or other longer-forms.

Anyway, I could write lots more about what *I* like about this stuff. And some about the very young Gato Barbieri on saxophone (who went through other stages of jazz-lite, and various crappy records, much later) -- at this point just a real virtuoso with an appropriately balls-out, or heart-on-the-sleeve, sense of melody and chops, both. The rest of the band is more readily known as "legendary" in 60s jazz forward. Henry Grimes is a complete original (and if you're interested in his later story... guy was homeless for a good long time, till some jazz students found him and took up a collection to buy him a bass, after decades of obscurity, and he started playing with lots of much younger West Coast admirers -- like Nels Cline). Ed Blackwell was a drummer that Ornette used, and Cherry played with in his bands, prior to this. Amazing mix of New Orleans trad-feel and "free". Really one of the most sensual drummers ever on record, to my ear anyway.

So here's "Complete Communion" -- the first post-Ornette Don Cherry record.
2/21/12 10:23 PM
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Ali
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2/21/12 10:27 PM
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Ali
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Later Cherry did all kinds of ethnic-fusion/jazz stuff (most of it VERY good) and the occasional revisitation with old Ornette-band compatriots (also very good). And he appeared on Lou Reed's "The Bells". Fathered the (IMO) unfairly hot pop one-hit wonder, Neneh Cherry (anybody remember "Buffalo Stance" from the well-named "Raw Like Sushi"?). And his son Eagle-Eye Cherry, who was (also IMO) the least talented of the family line that we got to hear.

Anyway, he was on the mainstream-leaning A&M records, briefly. A record called "Multi-Kulti", which featured (on a track not posted here) my former next-door neighbor, Prophet.

And this is not in any way avant- or strange, perhaps more palatable than what was going on so much earlier in the previously-posted piece of music. But I always thought this tune had a great build and was just freaking beautiful.

"Until the Rain Comes"

2/23/12 4:06 PM
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DasBeaver
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Complete Communion was killing!
His kids were Nenah Cherry and Eagle-Eye Cherry, he even had talented sperm!
2/23/12 4:50 PM
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Ali
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I'm not convinced by Eagle Eye.... but I'm glad you dug Complete Communion! Really my favorite of any of those long form jazz suites from the era. It took up side A of the original Lp, had to be split in two for youtube for some reason. I paid a stupid amount of money for it on cd back when. Then it got rereleased like a month later. Cool to listen to it again, prompted by Hugo. It's just one of those things that strikes me as undeniable.
2/23/12 5:40 PM
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hugomma
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I enjoyed "Until the Rain Comes", but holy shit at "Complete Communion". That was beautiful on many levels. One thing that always surprises me with early free jazz is how melodic & easy to listen to it is. To this day, I always expect noisy, skronky, dissonant insanity, & instead, I get beautiful melodies and slightly looser ensemble playing.

Personally, I loved Cherry's tone, here & on the Sun Ra clip.

What year was "Complete Communion" recorded?

Also, if I read what you wrote correctly, what made it 'free' was an unstructured number of measures they would solo? Why does Miles go off on free jazz so much in his autobiography?

Thanks, as always,

Hugo
2/23/12 7:39 PM
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Ali
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Complete Communion was 1965. Cherry was on all the classic Ornette Atlantics before that, so one of the founding fathers, so to speak. I think he did the most successful long form piece, or suite, of that time and ought to get more props than he does. I mean, he does sort of but usually people talk about Coleman and late period Coltrane and Ayler and Cecil Taylor and such first. Maybe they should, but Complete Communion in particular strikes me as putting Cherry right there in the same breath when talking about those guys.

On what makes it 'free' you read me right but what I wrote is way too simple. When I'm on a computer (not a phone) I'll write a bit more. Hopefully not enough to show you exactly how little I know what I'm talking about! And then try to interpret Miles' psychology... hmmm. More later.
2/23/12 9:42 PM
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hugomma
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More Don Cherry & Sun Ra.  I think this is a live version of the studio piece on the other thread? 

I'm looking forward to your analysis of Miles' psyche.

SPOILERS: DO NOT READ TILL AFTER YOU LISTEN







Cherry gets an interesting, expressive tone from the trumpet mute, to the one on the other Ra/Cherry (or is it Cherry/Ra?) piece on the previous thread.  From the beginning till about 2:53, it's like intergalactic, time warped chamber music.  Afterwards, I hear a twisted, unrecognizable standard (although you might know what it is).  Then around 3:23, back to intergalactic chamber music.  Then pure insanity at around 5:08 (Cecil Taylor-like shit).  Then ballad like beauty around 5:42.  The ending sounds like the most musical whale fart you've ever heard. 

These guys were perfect for each other.  I would've love to have heard more from them, with a rhythm section & Gilmore & Marshall Allen in the mix.


   
2/24/12 1:09 AM
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Ali
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OK, free jazz... different things go into it for different artists. And like most of the history of jazz, any particular defining feature is something they were doing already back in the day, so it's a question of emphases. Bebop, of the 40s, was called "avant-garde" at the time, and considered "ugly" by traditionalists, so .... yeah, it's interesting how you expect skronk and just get really melodic, rhythmically freer music from much of the 60s "free jazz". (You get skronk, too, sometimes -- just not as often as you expect). And bebop just sounds "old timey" now, for lack of a better phrase. (Even though some of that stuff is harder to listen to than a lot of the later "free" music!)

I think a lot of it was getting away from unison head arrangements ("riffs") in the ensemble followed by a round robin of solos. That stuff was the meat and potatoes of bebop and hard bop. In free jazz there were some composed themes, but the "solos" were much more collective improv -- which is a revisitation of very early jazz, before the cult of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet made the soloist a big deal.

And in bebop one of the defining characteristics was taking melodic material from scales suggested by chord changes in set patterns (lots of blues, lots of "I Got Rhythm" -- hence, "Rhythm Changes" as a common chord sequence)... well, that was being done in the 20s and 30s, just not so much as the single soloist's melodies, and not as "extended" to notes from the sevenths and ninths and such (or thirteenths, if you're Dolphy). Free jazz also had big rhythmic changes. (OK, this gets to be too much to type, but *really* taking the 4/4 time off the bass drum and using that to "drop bombs", and keeping time on the cymbal, is AT LEAST as much to do with bebop as playing over chords... but free jazz got away from strict timekeeping altogether).

The free jazz music of the 60s got away from chord changes, and was based on improvising off of melodies. Often for undetermined lengths. OK, so we had that already with Miles' "Kind of Blue" and 'modal jazz' too. In fact that's what modal really MEANS... just using scales for the melodies instead of chord changes underneath.... but with Kind of Blue and George Russell, it was still unison riffs followed by the solos, with other band members just keeping a pocket. So free jazz had those same undetermined lengths for melodic solos, but... they often weren't really solos so much as group improv. You really hear that on Complete Communion. And those guys had BIG ears, so ... somebody who is not really the front-line melody player suddenly have an idea, rhythmic or harmonic or melodic, and might brave pushing it forward and letting the others react if they thought it was good.

It was not only the length (number of measures) of the solos, it was also "free" in terms of timing, period. Lots of speeding up and slowing down, lots of poly-rhythm. That was relatively new, at least as an emphasis, in the early 60s. The trick was feeling the "pulse" in spite of the beat moving around so much.

OK, I'm writing semi-randomly here. So I might be clouding more than explaining. But the issues of form in terms of chord changes, or in terms of number of measures for solos or group themes, or in terms of straight up tempos, were more open. ALL of these being more open at once, with more of an emphasis on group improv or dialogue, too, was a big part of "the new thing". Some players got more away from any recognizable forms, including doing away with any repeatable melodies (for example) and that stuff got more skronky, or more random-sounding. So the balance between trad jazz values (such as "swing") and free expression becomes "the thing". Traditionalists often accused guys like Cherry or Ornette of being unable to play, period. Which we know is ridiculous. (But again I understand how weird that music must have been in 1965... part of what makes a pocket trumpet interesting is how notes are "smeared", more vocalized, less distinct in transitions from one to the next, vs. a full sized trumpet).

So we're USED to freer rhythms, or melodic improv (as opposed to the "vertical" harmonic improv which was so much more emphasized between the first bebop and "Giant Steps").

I dunno. I'm probably not helping, here. I'm sure you can find an article on line that says it better than I do. I'm just trying to say that there are plenty of components, none of which were individually new at the time, but emphasizing several sorts of freedom at once is what made it different from what came before.

There are sub-genres within "free jazz" too. I don't think anybody would call Ornette's Atlantic records, or any of the Don Cherry, "Fire Music" for example. Which is what they were calling Coltrane's noisier things, or Archie Shepp's, or especially Albert Ayler's. You hear more fury, more split tones/"screaming" on the horns, that sort of thing. (Ayler is a weird case because you also REALLY hear 1920s New Orleans in the middle of all that!)
2/24/12 1:18 AM
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Ali
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Now Miles... he just couldn't stand not being "first" I think. That and he really did value tight ensembles, and establishing "inside" before going too far out. At least until later.

Miles didn't invent modal jazz, but he was the guy everybody heard doing it; he popularized it, he (or he and Wayne) did it best, early on. It was a somewhat academic exercise -- he read George Russell, who was doing it already and wrote a book; he got Bill Evans as a pianist who "already knew" how to play in that conception. So clearly it wasn't his idea. The lengths of the solos were not predetermined, but... the unison riff between solos were, the tempos were. So he just hated on people not sticking with those sorts of verities.

He was a weird dude. If you read the autobiography you already know (what an absolute prick about women is one thing that stands out most for me, but... musically... some other things). Like how he was bagging on Freddie Hubbard *all* the time when Hubbard was the young rising star. Said he had no imagination, compared him unfavorably with less technically accomplished guys, all that. But then after he hadn't been playing for a while, and was nervous about getting back to it, he also said he was nervous about playing in front of really great musicians who might be in the audience... like Freddie Hubbard.

So Miles... just had a hard time saying anything nice about anyone he perceived as competition.

(Mind you I was glib when I said Cherry, or Ornette, were doing things Miles wouldn't get to for 10 years.... there were some definite differences. Miles got some interest in Eastern music, scales and rhythms, probably from Coltrane, and he got way interested in funk, keeping it "dance" music as opposed to white-audience-concert music; and he also took on whatever he could from the supernova of Jimi Hendrix. So it's not just a question of taking from "Free Jazz" after the fact).

I'm typing too late, now, after promising I'd get to it later. It's been a long set of days. I hope I'm making some sort of sense, here!

And yes I listened to the Sun Ra/Cherry clip. I hear "Lulu's Back In Town" again very early on, then.... yeah, something that might be a standard that I can't identify, as you pointed out. I think this must be the same tune -- different as it is -- as what you posted on the Sun Ra thread! I'm not all that into the first two minutes. But I can't tell what's supposed to sound like that and what is a result of a crappy recording, either (so that's never a good sign -- or not until you get to avant-garde turntablists much later!). After that it gets pretty great -- particularly Sun Ra's piano intensity. I wonder if there aren't some recordings of Chrry with the full Arkestra.
2/24/12 10:15 AM
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hugomma
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That was a great read, thanks Ali. Much more useful & informative than the Free Jazz entry in Wiki. I have a much better understanding about Free Jazz than I did before.

I knew the Ra/Cherry clip wasn't as good as the other one, but I figured it was worth a listen.

Avant garde turntables?!?
2/24/12 10:20 AM
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Ali
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You're too kind, Hugo. The Wiki entry is at least pretty well organized. My writing's a mess on this thread! What Wiki lacks is just pointing out how all those pieces of it weren't "new" in jazz, just the emphases. I think we also both left out the timbral issues, the emphasis on extended techniques (split tones on the saxes, or smearing on the trumpets, or playing inside of pianos... all of which *also* already existed to much lesser extent early on). Also talking about Miles getting into funk... hmmm... I'm terrible with years, but I wonder when Ornette started to do that with his electric "Prime Time" bands. I should know because much of my favorite music came out of that stuff -- the eighties Ronald Shannon Jackson and James Blood Ulmer records.

Avant-garde turntables... sure... Christian Marclay being the turntablist who worked with Zorn and Parkins and all those types, but there are others, and others decidedly more hip-hop than Marclay (and I don't know all that much about it).

This is far from his claim to fame, but just the sort of funny modernist experiment I like -- Marclay did a "record without a cover" some time in the late 80s (I think). His idea was it should get scratched up by being put on a shelf with the other lps, sound different every time you played it. The title was "Record Without A Cover".
2/24/12 10:45 AM
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hugomma
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 Ali, I gotta actually do some work now, but I know very little of Ornette Coleman, & nothing about Ronald Shannon Jackson or James Blood Ulmer.  If you would be so kind...
2/24/12 11:34 AM
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Ali
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Done, on new threads. But here's a 1989 "Night Music" segment with Christian Marclay -- he gets a helluva lot weirder than this, but not often a whole lot more fun (at least that I've heard):

2/26/12 1:57 PM
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hugomma
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Okay, just saw this & had to check it out.  Loved the mellow transistion at 2:25, & then the percussion at 2:55.  The guitar at 3:04 left me wanting more.

Most of all, I wish there was another show like "Night Music" on the air.
2/26/12 2:35 PM
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Ali
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I'm always just impressed and moved that anybody but me actually would LISTEN to the whole thing straight through, LOL! I like what you point out; I also like the little touches -- like the tuba line, or the occasional big-band swing moment, leading into that mellow transition. I didn't look at the time, but it must be around 2:05 to 2:25, then. That stuff he does just scraping the needle across the record at the end... there's a lot more of that sort of thing in his later music, where he's just being ultra-modernist, showing the "materiality" of the medium (so it's a bit late for that, but... that *is* a big part of the modernist enterprise, whether it's Pollack's paint splattering or Joyce's breaking sentences down into different sorts of writing. Not itself a new idea... just making the point that the instrument is not a transparent medium).

Certainly I think -- at least at first -- it's much easier to listen to Marclay if you can see video, too.
6/29/13 1:51 AM
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soundoff71
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Ali,

I'm Facebook friends with a writer from Fort Woth who's written a bunch of articles about Ronald Shannon Jackson & he posted this on his Facebook page.  I didn't know about this side of Don Cherry.  Very weird, interesting stuff.

When I told him I loved "Complete Communion", here's what Ken had to say:

"His Blue Notes are all great _jazz_ records, but he really starts to come into his own with "Eternal Rhythm" on BASF, which is out on CD now. Also look for "Relativity Suite" on JCOA"

6/29/13 1:58 AM
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soundoff71
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Another one from Ken's Facebook wall: "Old New Dreams", with Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, & Dewey Redmond.

6/29/13 9:58 AM
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Ali
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Damn man.... "Brown Rice" -- which was originally just called "Don Cherry" -- haven't heard any of that in forever That was where his whole world-jazz thing really came together with the electric-trance stuff post Bitches-Brew that was going around.

Then Old and New Dreams was the original Ornette band with Redman substituting for Ornette. I love Dewey Redman by the way, he's one of those guys who would have been a lot bigger had he been more into traveling/touring. (He's on a track on Paul Motian's Trioism, him and Lovano snaking around each other with Frisell and Motian doing their magical cloud holding everything afloat...) Redman is also Joshua Redman's father.

I'll tell you what though.... I'll listen to Blackwell and Haden in the rhythm section no matter who is playing up front

I don't know about Ken saying "Don Cherry's Blue Notes are good but...." Only because the Blue Notes are not all Complete Communion. That was the heaviest long form piece of music to come out of jazz ever at that point, so I'd argue he had "come into his own" already. To think he didn't is just to think he was still too much an Ornette acolyte already -- but I've made my case that I think Complete Communion was already more "successful" than Ornette's Free Jazz or Coltrane's Ascension....

None of it is a fight I wanna have, though. I should just listen to what Ken recommends. I don't know "Eternal Rhythm", sounds like I should.

Thanks for posting that stuff -- again, hadn't occurred to me that any of it was on youtube.
6/30/13 1:49 AM
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soundoff71
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The beginning, in particular, sounds more like avant garde classical than avant garde jazz.  Not nearly as fun (for me) as "Complete Communion" or "Brown Rice", but very interesting.

6/30/13 1:51 AM
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soundoff71
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Eternal Rhythm Part 2

6/30/13 1:58 AM
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Ali
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Love every moment of "Eternal Rhythm". And Sonny Sharrock and Karl Berger on it.... (Sonny Sharrock sprung fully formed out of the head of freaking Zeus, man. THIS is Sharrock in 1968? He's ALL there already). Ok, straight up masterpiece. Ken has that right.

But he had "come into his own" on Complete Communion, too, earlier.

I'm grateful we have a lot of Don Cherry, over a lot of decades!
6/30/13 2:04 AM
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soundoff71
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I'm not loving the "Eternal Rhythm' stuff nearly as much as "Complete Communion", but this live recording of "Mu" is quite lovely. 

6/30/13 2:07 AM
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Ali
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wow... youtube. That *is* lovely. And the best footage of a "pocket trumpet" playing close-up ever. It's bizarre to see this footage for the first time in middle age, after decades of listening to Cherry on record. Wow.

(Yeah, Complete Communion is Cherry's claim to the pantheon, really... the one to put up there with Ornette and Trane and Miles and all those guys... it's ridiculous how good that is).
6/30/13 2:25 AM
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soundoff71
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Ali - wow... youtube. That *is* lovely. And the best footage of a "pocket trumpet" playing close-up ever. It's bizarre to see this footage for the first time in middle age, after decades of listening to Cherry on record. Wow.

(Yeah, Complete Communion is Cherry's claim to the pantheon, really... the one to put up there with Ornette and Trane and Miles and all those guys... it's ridiculous how good that is).

The lack of pocket trumpet for large chunks of "Eternal Rhythm' may be why it didn't grab me the way "Complete Communion" did.  I don't care about his technical shortcomings or what Miles said about his playing, I love Cherry's tone, energy, imagination, & phrasing.

According to the "Eternal Rhythm" Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_Rhythm, Cherry plays lots of different kinds of flutes.  It's pretty dense stuff, & not what I was expecting.  Need to let that one simmer for a while.

Here's "Tantra", the 1st piece off of the  album. 

Here's the "Relativity Suite" Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativity_Suite


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