Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Don Cherry - Cherry Jam (Gearbox Records, 2021)

Don Cherry was a legendary musician whose career began playing pocket trumpet in the famous Ornette Coleman Quartet of the late 1950’s to mid 1960’s before becoming a solo musician and citizen of the world on multiple instruments until his passing in 1995. This is short (about 22 minutes in length) EP, which is a very pleasant surprise. The music was recorded in Copenhagen in October of 1965, and it presents Cherry playing cornet with an all European band, Benny Nielsen on bass, Simon Koppel on drums, Atli Bjørn on piano and Mogens Bollerup on tenor saxophone. The recording is taken from the original tape of a 1965 radio broadcast, programmed by Denmark’s national radio station, and it sounds very good considering it's age. The music was recorded in this same year that Cherry would record his landmark Blue Note recording, Complete Communion, and the music follows along in that path with a sense of melodic freedom, beginning with “The Man From Greenland” where they set the pace for the remainder of this short session with a unison theme and a series of solos featuring Cherry, who plays the cornet with grace and fluidity. The Ella Fitzgerald song “You Took Advantage of Me” is a bit of a surprise, but works well, with the band combing through the melody for nuggets of improvisational gold. The following track is “Priceless,” a slightly longer tune that allows the group to branch out and explore in open space. The presence of the piano keeps things grounded, but the playing on this track and the closing "Nigeria" as a whole band or as soloists is quite impressive, more than you’d expect from an ad hoc band. This is more than a curio, it’s a well done session of modern jazz, creating spontaneously in the moment. Cherry is at a crossroads in his career at this stage, having played with Coleman, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and others.  Scandinavia would soon become a home base, setting the stage for the remainder of a long, eclectic and very successful career. Cherry Jam -

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