Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Neneh Cherry and The Thing - The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound, 2012)

When the Scandinavian free jazz super-group The Thing was founded in the 1990’s they named themselves after a song by the multi-instrumentalist and jazz iconoclast Don Cherry. In an attempt to get closer to the essence, they recruit Cherry’s step-daughter, one time pop star Neneh Cherry for an interesting program of pop, rock and jazz performances. This is not a stretch for The Thing, who has collaborated with many artists and has made aspects of rock music part of their repertoire. The Thing consists of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. The album works really well, covering music from a wide range of genres and neither the musical group or the singer make any concessions to each other, but rather collaborate beautifully. “Cashback” opens the album with a very catchy and hook heavy song, driven by propulsive bass and before saxophone and drums lead into the chorus keeping everything fast. The band supports Cherry well, poppy but never contrived. Low tones build in on “Dream Baby Dream” and under hopeful sounding lyrics the music stays subdued and in line with the vocals. The band develops into a deeper and more robust instrumental interlude of ecstatic music before Cherry’s incantatory singing draws the performance out to a conclusion. Ominous low tones of saxophone set the stage before the vocals come in strong on “Too Tough to Die.” Strong riffing from the band laying down smears of sound and declaratory vocals pushed ever onward by driving drums. “Accordion” combines Cherry’s soulful voice with some powerful lyrics as Nilssen-Love’s drums gather power and the song’s message becomes progressively grittier and darker. The punk anthem “Dirt” has a strong and powerful feel, with Cherry’s deep soul vocals wallowing in the murk of the music. The song develops into a screaming catharsis of a free jazz free for all. Ending with Ornette Coleman’s “What Reason Should I Give” brings it all back to jazz. Cherry slows the ebullient vocals of the originals, drawing out and questioning the words as the band paints with smears of sound in a slow and graceful manner. The Thing have collaborated with a number of musicians during their career as a band and while this might be their most surprising coupling, it is also among the most successful. Both Cherry and the band buy into each other’s sound world without hesitation and produce a powerful album. The Cherry Thing - amazon.com

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