Don Cherry – Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisers Revisited (Ezz-thetics Records, 2021)

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This compilation brings together two of the three albums that trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry recorded for the Blue Note label, with the two albums each consisting of lengthy side long suite like performances. These album start what what would become a fascinating bridge between Cherry’s free focused modern jazz sideman recordings with luminaries like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and the world music that he would explore in depth in the 1970’s. Complete Communion is the first album featured here, with the song of the same name having punchy and intuitively played brass and reed solos which spark excitement. The music sounds like free-bop, but Gato Barbieri does some overblowing on tenor saxophone, supported by bass and drums, and the group’s collective playing is tight and well integrated. Cherry solos in an exploratory manner poking around corners, and Barbieri takes off on a raw stark flight, with both returning to the brief theme, with room for some fine bass and drum exposition “Elephantasy“ has a bouncy propulsive theme which pushes the music forward, strong and confident soloing from the horns leads back to a sawing bowed bass solo with feathering drums and gathering brass, strong and bracing playing all around as they branch out. The second album on this compilation leads off with the title track “Symphony for the Improvisors” which is much more chaotic free with a rush of energy from the instruments, flute sounding nervous amid bass and drums, enveloped in squall. Karl Berger’s Vibes bubble up with short feature, before being shouted down. Where as the first album seemed like guided open improvisation, this is much more free, bearing the imprint of experimental albums like John Coltrane’s Ascension. Incrementally the music opens to allow for some spaciousness leading to a rough theme halfway through and developing a very nice vibe shaded cornet solo. “Manhattan Cry” is the final LP side-long suite marking quite a change from what had come before, spacious and open with room to breathe allowing gentle piano, bass to settle before high pitch bursts of raw saxophone burst through. The group takes an interesting approach to performing, instead of using disparate songs, the group uses themes and melodies as a jumping off point for a continuous improvisation. Cherry leads some highly individual musicians on these albums, and molds their sound to create some of the most avant music ever recorded for Blue Note. But this complex music is the culmination of hard work and preparation, leading to extraordinary group efforts that never flag even over a twenty minute long performances. Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisers Revisited – Squidco


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