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28 November 2010

Don Cherry - 'Where is Brooklyn?' (Blue Note)

Into stereo we march; Gato's out, and Pharoah's in. Things starts off with 'Awake Nu', an unstoppably fluid juggernaut, with Grimes hitting soft tonalities over Blackwell's nervous pulse. Pharoah's really shining here cause Cherry actually holds back a lot, like he's introducing his band. The sax tones are somewhat thin, yet heavy, like they are being set in plasticene. Cherry's own bleats are much more playful compared to what he did with Gato. But that record was called Complete Communion so obviously it was about harmony. Here, a question mark in the title sets an interrogative nature, and occasionally some probing questions do come out, like at the end of 'Awake Nu'. This leads into 'Taste Maker', where we get a more ferocious cornucopia of brass, occasionally erupting. Henry Grimes takes a great bass solo, appearing like a rabid woodchuck shrouded in mist. He solos again, on 'The Thing', which closes out side 1 with a jaunty, Cherry-driven exploration that shrouded in darkness yet upbeat. The melodies aren't obvious and there's no hummable hooks, but there's a continual ebb and flow of musical ideas. When Cherry goes textural, Pharoah turns on the sweet stuff; the rhythm section is continually adjusting. One thing I didn't realise about Where is Brooklyn? until halfway through side 2 is the amount of space here. There's very few points where everyone is "all in", instead with many duo and trio moments to establish a pace and preserve continuity. Side 2 ends in an 18 minute jam called 'Unite' which is the most flowing and open piece yet in the Cherry solo repertoire, no surprise since the duration allows more exploration and space. It never stops pulsing, but also avoids severe dissonance. In short, it swings, despite variously oppositional tactics and a constantly elusive tonal centre. I love when Grimes gets simple with it -- there are brief segments where he just taps one note, letting things settle down, only to have them flare up again, bathed in cornet and sax. Overall, Where is Brooklyn? is exploratory, yet genteel; it's cover drawing is marvellously appropriate.

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