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30 November 2010

Don Cherry - 'Mu Second Part' (Affinity)

It's hard to find a decent-sized image to steal out there, because most of them are for the alternate white BYG issue. But I have both Mus on Affinity, and these back covers are adorned with great-yet-frightening photos of Mr. Cherry. In this second part, he's cracking a mad/evil smile and his eyes are bulging out of his head, but the effect casts him more as a lunatic than a villain. I guess only a lunatic would create a medley called 'The Mysticism of My Sound', a piano-driven suite that actually isn't nearly as mystical as anything else found on the two Mu slices. As suggested at the end of part 1, the piano noodlings are some sort of bridge into an extended piano workout. This is very slow-paced, and quite simplistic. There are bluesy overtones (particularly in the medley's opening movement, named after Dollar Brand), but none of the weird fidelity found on part 1's 'Terrestrial Beings'. Blackwell is holding things down but letting Cherry ring on, and the space is again a nice element (there are long sections where Cherry is only playing with one hand, clearly intending to highlight the melody over any sort of dazzling technique or freedom). It segues into bamboo night (in a piece titled, yes, 'Bamboo Night'), where said flute comes back to prominence, then drifts into the ether. Blackwell ends the side with a mini-solo, where he does that thing drummers do, you know, where they kinda push on the skins and warp the sounds. 'Peo Peo Can' (or 'Teo-Teo-Can' depending on whether you believe the sleeve or the label) begins side 2 with some real mysticism. Cherry plays the Indian flute, chants, and speaks in tongues all at the same time. Blackwell is on tiny percussion - one part sounds suspiciously like those rainsticks you get at airport gift shops. Things finally erupt in 'Psychodrama', another medley, which starts with the trumpet/drums freakout we've all been waiting for. But even this is strangely regal, and comes in bursts. But by the end (after going through another section named after Dollar Brand, with more piano of course), things wither away, the lifeforce receding into the distance. I haven't really sat down and listened to these records in years, at least not as closely as this -- which is, of course, the real purpose of this project. But I found a much more diverse and lively array of musical ideas than you would think only two people would be capable of. In some ways this is Cherry's masterpiece, even though it's sketchy, impulsive and unfocused -- but it may be the best representation of him as a musician. Perhaps these need to be paired with Brown Rice for a better picture.

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