HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

9 December 2010

Don Cherry - 'Eternal Now' (Antilles)

In Sweden now, Cherry is leaving his Ornette Coleman-influenced roots behind and working with musicians much closer to 'folk' than 'jazz', and also three guys I've never heard of. There's also no pocket trumpet or cornet to be found here, so maybe that's some other indication of his intended direction. (I've never actually been sure if he plays the cornet and the pocket trumpet, or if it's the same thing and just mislabeled by a lot of people). The opener, 'Gamla Stan - The Old Town by Night' sounds like the murky moody post-Mu direction, based around a h'suan (you know, the ancient Chinese instrument). It drifts gently into said night, suggesting a world more influenced by Palenque than Peking, but maybe that's just me. 'Love Train' is the smooth sexual force of Don Cherry, not the O'Jays, but actually it's Bernt Rosengren who is delivering the erotic salvos. Cherry, who composed the piece, stays on piano (with Christer Bothén) and directs the piece through a simple structure with occasionally erupting chord bangs. The taragot is Rosengren's instrument of choice, which is a wooden sax from Romania. When the notes change there's a bit of grift, and a much more mellow tone than a resonating sax bell would provide -- almost like a tenor sax crossed with an Indian shenhai. It's the closest to a proper jazz feeling on the whole record, as Rosengren knows how to work the reed. The gongs and Tibetan bells are felt more that overtly heard, and it's a nice slice of something different that appears to be something familiar. Bothén's own 'Bass Player for Ballatune' disrupts the smooth vibe, closing out the side with a pounding, Charlegmangian piano workout for six hands and two keyboards. It's dense and seems far longer than it's actual running time (3'45) -- and perhaps attempts to define 'eternal now'. On the flip we get 'Moving Pictures for the Ear', a repetetive tribal percussion jam over which Cherry extemporises on harmonium and vocals. I saw the No Neck Blues Band once and they got into a jam that sounded exactly like this, and the harmonium here floats around the same way their keyboard did. It's so simple, yet compelling - my highlight of the album - not so much because it's a convincing work of ethnoforgery but because the piece offers so much in a simple structure. The rhythms are there to pick apart and the timbre of the dousso n'Koni, in conjunction with the harmonium, make it endlessly psychedelic. 'Tibet' takes things full circle, with it's slowly expanding sound clouds -- Cherry bleating on the Pkan-dung, which the liner notes assure me is 'a Tibetan ritual trumpet constructed from the thighbone of a virgin'. It's the sparse journey you'd expect, a truly placid exploration that nonetheless manages to be interesting and with momentum. Overall, Eternal Now is a beautiful record to listen to, though maybe slightly leaning towards the dark side of "look at all of these cool ethnic instruments". Or actually, it straddles that line, as there's enough intuitive musicianship here to master anything unfamiliar, preventing this from being a mere educational exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment