Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beyond The Canon (Relativity Suite)

Jazz has a pretty well-established canon. There's some tinkering around the edges, but generally a few artists and albums come up time and again, with good reason.

But it's fun and worthwhile, on occasion, to revisit some of the forgotten classics -- or simply the forgotten.

Over the next few posts, I want to throw out the names of a few albums I really like that I don't hear mentioned too often. Coincidentally, the first few I have in mind are all from the 70's, a sort of lost decade perhaps, but which produced plenty of good jazz.

For starters:

Don Cherry, Relativity Suite (1973)

Don Cherry is certainly in my personal canon -- as I mentioned in an earlier post, Complete Communion is one of my all-time favorite albums and is itself overlooked. This one gets even less attention.

First off, Relativity Suite is worth hearing for the personnel alone: Cherry, Haden, Redman, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, the scarcely recorded Charles Brackeen, Leroy Jenkins and others...sort of a beefed up Liberation Music Orchestra, but the music here is Cherry through and through (I don't actually know that he wrote everything, but it has his feel for sure).

Don Cherry was a brilliant assimilator of sounds. Here, he melds India, China, some straight New York City and Midwestern free jazz and New Orleans. And it always sounds organic, never contrived, not just ok, I'm gonna hire a sitar player for this date. In other words, it's not that one Indian sounding song on a Beatles album. No, Cherry's experiments are always thoroughly thought-out and really well-executed. The pieces fit together.

I think that's probably because he was a guy who actually went out into the world, devoured its music and understood that the diversity of music on the planet truly is relative.

I love that Don Cherry wasn't content with his place on the cutting edge of a massively important innovation in American music, but insisted on getting the rest of the world in on it as well.

He's also got a way with melody. Like his cohort Ornette Coleman, he has a seemingly endless store of them.

Check out the soaring strings, searing horns, chants, pretty melodies (Trans-Love Airways in particular) and the inimitable Ed Blackwell bringing it home.

Edit: that video was's another track from the album.

No comments:

Post a Comment