Don Cherry
Brown Rice LP

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A&M Records

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Produs Nou / Anul aparitiei: 1975 / Reissue 2019 

 

In the opening minute of “Brown Rice,” Cherry’s world-embracing vision is made clear. An ode to a time in Cherry’s life when he subsisted only on brown rice “to remind myself there were starving people in the world” (though Julain Cope suggests it might be about heroin instead), it speaks to the two extremes of Cherry, that of the spiritual seeker and the junkie jazz musician. Two electric keyboards chime in tandem, emulating either Chinese classical music or gamelan, while Haden’s wah-wah bass interlocks with electric bongos and forms a groove. Vocalist Verna Gillis purrs an inviting and skin-prickling “ooh.” As it all starts to percolate and cook, Lowe’s bluesy outbursts lance the tapestry and Cherry calmly utters the titular phrase and other ingredients like “miiiiso,” his intonation making that bulk grain sound at once wholly sensuous and slightly sinister.

“Malkauns” references one of the oldest raga forms in Indian classical music. Moki Cherry’s tambura acts as a resting breath beneath the expansive composition, slow and deep, as Haden takes an extended solo that’s contemplative, poignant, and unhurried. When Cherry and Higgins enter nearly five minutes in, the piece moves from calm to urgent, casting off the strictures of Eastern and Western musical forms and cresting towards a sumptuous peak.

“Chenrezig” is the closest Brown Rice ever gets to sounding like straight jazz, though purists might disagree. Nearly as long as “Malkauns” and with a gaze similarly affixed towards infinity, it’s named for the most revered of all Bodhisattvas (the Dalai Lama is considered to be his reincarnation). After opening chimes and Cherry’s growled incantation set the ritual in motion, his trumpet flutters around Lowe’s melodic, vibrato-heavy solo, leading towards a tranquil center some 8 minutes in. The piece then turns ferocious; ecstatic blues chords from pianist Ricky Cherry urge the song forward and Lowe plows ahead with a shrieking, stratospheric solo, Don Cherry joining him with high-register runs and vocal ululations.

Closer “Degi-Degi” suggests a liminal space between German kosmische, Afrobeat, jazz fusion, and electric funk, powered by Haden’s incessant bass and Cherry’s high-arcing solos and whispers about “the goddess of music.” Relentless and incandescent, it rebuffs the notion that spiritual music must be placid. Much like Coleman, Albert Ayler and John Coltrane  did in the ‘60s, Cherry suggests—as Alice Coltrane  did in the same era—that true spiritual awakening stems not always from a state of peace but from tumult and upheaval. In its balance of noise and bliss, beauty and chaos, Brown Rice is true world music.

 

Tracklist:

 

A1 Brown Rice

A2 Malkauns

B1 Chenrezig

B2 Degi-Degi

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