Don Cherry

December 1, 2007

Live at Café Montmartre 1966
ESP-Disk 4032

Transferred to CD from a vintage Danish radio broadcast, this impressive live disc features American trumpeter Don Cherry leading an international quintet through a set of originals and free improvisations. One notable sidelight is, how barely six years after the breakthrough New York gigs of Ornette Coleman’s quartet with the trumpeter, Cherry was able to forge a quintet of non-Americans – German vibist Karl Berger, Argentinean tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, Italian drummer Aldo Romano and Danish bassist Bo Stief – into a unified combo fully conversant with his new musical language.

In hindsight, the six tracks aren’t that far out, with Barbieri’s Latin-American pacing, Berger’s Bop-inflected metallic bounces and Stief’s walking bass lines as prominent as the trumpeter and saxophonist’s frequent excursions into glossolalia and skyscraper-high freak effects. One (un) intentional humorous highlight on “Complete Communion” is when the two hornmen expand a quote from “A Taste of Honey” into a half-minute jape on the pop ditty, finally deconstructing it into a stop-time, Coleman-like theme, backed by a thumping bass ostinato. Among the contrapuntal asides that include buzzy brass triplets and striated reed split tones, plus a thickset of inchoate beats accentuating rapid time-and-tempo changes, the five are often surprisingly lyrical. Additionally, the thematic heads are always recapped no matter how agitated and harsh the solos.

Following convention, Cherry makes announcements between tunes. Also prominent are the stentorian tones of the Danish announcer, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Lester Pearson was prime minister.

— Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 13 #4