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29 November 2010

Don Cherry - 'Mu First Part' (Affinity)

Cherry and Blackwell bashed out these two records in 1969, showcasing their interactions without Henry Grimes or anyone else in the way. Obviously there's a lot more space here, and some parts are quite mellow. But there's also a lot of ferociousness. Cherry doesn't stick to his pocket trumpet, though it opens things with the Eastern-tinged (and modestly named) 'Brilliant Action'. The bamboo flute and Indian flute are both credited, and I'm not sure which one is on 'Amejelo', a long, flowing meditation that occasionally breaks into patient Ed Blackwell solos. Blackwell likewise expands his palette, using a lot of little instruments and overall choosing steady breathing over manic jazz hands. I guess it's Cherry who is responsible for the chanting, singing and moaning that occasionally pops up, but that's only because it happens where there isn't anything else he could be doing. It feels like these are completely improvised, though it's sometimes hard to tell in a free duo format. 'Total Vibration' is split over both sides and picks up the pace a bit after 'Amejelo's restraint. The trumpet, particularly after hearing so much flute, sounds positively acidic - the total vibrations are within every note, and Blackwell's puttering about only serves to enhance it. It drifts out on a boom-chik beat, all quiet energy emphasised through simplicity. The closing track, 'Terrestrial Beings', finds Cherry on the piano, an instrument which he approaches from a far more grounded approach than when he's blowing. There are moments of pure Sun Ra, especially at the end as it wiggles into the run-out groove, also due in part to the strange fidelity and texture of the recording. But there are also traces of honky-tonk and middle Eastern music as well. Maybe this is just a filler track, or maybe it's supposed to indicate a bridge to part 2 -- it's hard to know what Cherry's motivation is. But it's actually one of the highlights of the record, because it really conveys the otherworldly feel that the title Mu suggests.

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