As the bell rings for us to join the Don Cherry World Tour, some Buddhist monks are chanting on their way to an Indian film studio where the string section is woken up by short clarion calls and screams by Cherry and Frank Lowe respectively. Cherry then sings an outrageous caricature of Chano Pozo before reminding us for a couple of minutes of what a fine trumpet improvisor he is. When the monotonous rhythmic backing ends, the brief first side ends as Carlos Ward begins a beautiful Coltranesque ballad backed by Mrs. Bley emulating the Mrs. Dale’s Diary aspect of Mrs. Coltrane.
The second side begins with a similar feeling as Selene Fung plays some slightly pleasant ching before being interrupted by the orchestra playing something completely inept. Trans-Love Airways takes us back to the Indian film studio orchestra until Charlie Haden appears with some of his remarkable flamenco bass over an inappropriate drone. Meanwhile back in Europe, Carla Bley is performing nicely with a semi-Bartok string quintet until an amateur American marching band takes over to feature Ed Blackwell suffering from the latest techniques of recording drums so closely that all their overtones are lost.
In common with virtually all other jazz giants, Don Cherry’s attempt to write an orchestral suite is nowhere when compared with the compositions of Beethoven, Brahms, Bartok and others of that crowd. Nor does it achieve a small fraction of what his own unmolested improvising usually produces; which is precisely why he is a jazz giant.
(Big band fans who will probably want this record will find that it is available from Incus Imports, 87 Third Cross Road, Twickenham, Middlesex.)
Tantra/Mali Doussn’ gouni / Desireless (15¼ min) – The Queen Of Tung-Ting Lake; Trans-Love Airways; Infinite Gentleness; March Of The Hobbits (19¼ min)
Don Cherry (comp/cond/tpt/conch/vcl/perc); Brian Trentham (tbn); Sharon Freeman (Frhn); Jack Jeffers (tuba); Charles Brackeen (sop/alt/vcl); Carlos Ward (alt/vcl); Frank Lowe (ten/vcl); Dewey Redman (ten/vcl); Carla Bley (pno); Selene Fung (ching); Leroy Jenkins (vln): Joan Kalisch (viola); Nan Newton (viola); Pat Dixon (cello): Jane Robertson (cello); Charlie Haden (bs): Mokl Cherry (tambura): Ed Blackwell (dm); Paul Motian (dm). NYC. 14/2/73.
(JCOALP1006 £2.50 from specialist shops, £2.25 direct from Incus Imports)