FAME Review: Don Cherry - Organic Music Society
Don Cherry - Organic Music Society

Organic Music Society

Don Cherry

Caprice Records - CAP 21827

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Most who bother to check out the back-scatter to jazz musics are aware that John Coltrane was a deeply spiritual man, but many don't go much beyond that to undertand he was far from alone. Quite a few jazzers were far removed from the hustle, bustle, and drugs of so many of their compeers, and much of their spirituality readily transcended the stifling Judeo-Christian dogmas and stultifications in order to branch into Eastern and Near Eastern thought. This extended to Pharoah Sanders, then on to John McLaughlin, and further. The urge, it seems, has died down for a while, but while it was going strong, Don Cherry was another musician who held to a foundation outside the norms, and Organic Music is documentation of that.

One of the compact disc's few real virtues as a medium (I've discussed the format's many failings in printed venues long before this moment) is its ability to revive lost LPs that are hard as hell to locate now and very expensive when finally tracked down. Organic Music is really difficult to find in vinyl but a double-LP that timed in just under 80 minutes and so both slabs fit onto one CD, thanks goodness. It commences in a long Brazilian chant, written by Nana Vasconcelos, that's surprisingly Tibetan, and then slips into an Hermeto Pascoal-ish cut, Elixir, written and sung in a native tongue by Cherry, and with surprising authority. Then comes the Carnatic Manusha Raga Kamboji and its exotic refrains. It doesn't take long before you get the urge to shed that Brooks Bros. suit, sit down with the kindred, grow your hair, and forget the insane world of capitalism and its killing stresses.

What may be take you unawares, though, is the fact that Cherry picked up on Terry Riley's work, but once Terry's Tune is heard, Don's own Hope is understood for its serial underpinning just before going frantic and free. Unsurprising, then, that the Sanders / Thomas masterpiece The Creator has a Master Plan also finds its way into the menu, this time a very loose tribal version overflowing with jacarandas and a hint of ayehuasca. The gatefold packaging of this release is sturdy, well reproduced, and includes a 24-page booklet detailing every aspect of the entire affair, replete with commentary and period photos. Except for two studio cuts, the music was captured on portable machines, so the sound quality varies yet embodies a very noticeable trend from the 70s, one of keeping things as ground-level as possible…to an extent that makes even the Incredible Sting band look conservative and fastidious. The intent was to shed technology as much as possible and return to older ways, and it's a drive hard to argue with once you lock into what resulted.

Track List:

  • North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn (Nana Vasconcelos) (12:25)
  • Elixir (Don Cherry) (6:08)
  • Manusha Raga Kamboji (Hans Isgren) (2:19)
  • Relativity Suite - Pt. 1 (Don Cherry) (6:52)
  • Relativity Suite - Pt. 2 (Don Cherry) (11:59)
  • Terry's Tune (version one) (Terry Riley) (1:56)
  • Hope (Don Cherry) (10:0)
  • The Creator Has A Master Plan (Sanders / Thomas) (6:28)
  • Sidhartha (Don Cherry) (1:59)
  • Utopia & Visions (Don Cherry) (6:33)
  • Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro (Dollar Brand) (2:33)
  • Terry's Tune (version two) (Terry Riley) (5:10)
  • Resa (Don Cherry) (5:41)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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