Mar 25, 2013

Don Cherry Brown Rice: A World Fusion Masterpiece

Don Cherry made his bones with the pocket trumpet while in the quartets of Ornette Coleman in the 1960's.

Cherry also released 3 albums on Blue Note, Symphony for Improvisors, Complete Communion, and Where is Brooklyn.

 Those albums were very avant garde and full of free elements, Gato Barbieri and Pharoah Sanders appeared at one time or another on these mid 60's recordings.

Brown Rice on the other hand, doesn't remotely sound like these other albums, the style is an amalgam of jazz, r&b and world music. The music has an other worldly feel to it, I get this feeling I am listening to a music not yet classified. Brown Rice is indeed a fulfilling and engaging listen.

I believe people who enjoy some of Pat Metheny's work could get into this, yet serious post bop free jazz fans can too, it's both high brow and contemporary at the same time. Brown Rice does have an enigmatic quality throughout the music.

Don Cherry also adds some vocals on the album, I think they work rather well, adding a space cadet vibe of mystery. Make no mistake about it, Brown Rice is a fusion album, just not in the Return to Forever sense.

The title track has long been a favorite of the beat doctors and fans of funk fusion. The rest of the album would really have an appeal to world fusion fans no doubt.

"Maulkens" and "Chenrezig" are lengthy 12 plus minute tracks that really highlight a echo trumpet sound that seems to have reverb drenched into the tapes own properties.

Don Cherry was not universally loved as a trumpeter. Critics and fellow musicians remarked how Don played out of tune and missed notes and played too primitive at times.

 Miles Davis didn't care for him in the 50's, but by 1964, in a Downbeat Blind Fold Test, mentioned how much he respected Don. "Perhaps this speaks volumes", I am not aware of too many musicians Miles didn't Like, then ended up liking?


Of course the harshest critics tend to not like anything that strays to far from the jazz tradition. Many times to them, music theory and perfect pitch are the be all end all, and innovation and experimentation are out the window.

I like Don Cherry, whether with Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, or his fusion albums like Brown Rice.


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