Don CHERRY – Organic Music Society 1972

Don CHERRY – Organic Music Society 1972


The utopian dreams of the Sixties quickly evaporated in the United States. Chicago 68, Altamont, Nixon, Kent State, et cetera. But the awakened possibilities of free love and higher consciousness lingered longer in Europe. As the Seventies rolled on, Scandinavian countries still offered significant pockets where experiments in communal living and unfettered exploration thrived.

Ornette trumpeter, Sonny Rollins sideman, Blue Note bandleader and world traveler Don Cherry was already hip to it. He had been spending time in Scandinavia since the mid-60s, so it’s little surprise he chose to make Sweden his home base during the early Seventies. He and Swedish artist Moki Karlsson set up house in an old school in Skane.

This period represents a great, woolly leap forward for Don Cherry. Almost casually, he invents a genuine third (or would it be the fourth?) way in jazz. He still plays trumpet, and adds singing, piano, various flutes, and a wide array of traditional percussion instruments to his musical arsenal. He fuses his jazz chops and improvisation background with keen interests in native musics from around the globe. Musical associates, friends, neighbors, and their children drop into Cherry and Moki’s home at all hours for impromptu jam sessions. Any are welcome to join in. It’s all part of a larger synthesis.

The recordings that make up Organic Music are akin to a vibrant scrapbook. They’re vivid snapshots and field recordings from this fecund time in Cherry’s life. You get Brazilian chants with neighbors recorded at 6 am, loose sessions captured in a large tent, far-flung cover versions, and even an embryonic version of Relativity Suite. Later albums will showcase these ideas blooming full flower in more polished settings. But Organic Music places us in the gentle meadow of ground zero of these ideas. The world-jazz hybrid unfolds before our very ears.

The first two selections come from the so-called Dome Sessions. As part of a 1971 “Utopia and Visions” exhibition, a large tent-like Buckminster Fuller dome was erected in the garden behind the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Moki tricked it out with her textiles. Don convened family, friends, professional, and amateur musicians to play long sessions for over a week. A slightly more formalized version of what had already been happening at his home. Goran Freese arrived for several days with a tape recorder, capturing some of these remarkable performances.

Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan” was something of a counterculture hit in the late 60s, so it’s a natural for Cherry and his ensemble to cover, a tune everyone probably knew pretty well. But instead of Pharoah’s sprawling 20-minute version, Cherry and Co. distill the tune to six minutes, conjuring its glorious essence. A sort of radio edit. For those who lacked the patience to sit through the original, it’s a wonderful introduction to this classic soul-free-jazz composition.

“Utopia & Visions” is cut from a similar cloth, but the mood is decidedly more mellow. Its pastoral ambiance and sunkissed groove fit the ideal of the title, the genial good vibes presumably created by the experience. It’s contemplative and uplifting without becoming musically soft-headed or faux naive. Nice.

“Bra Joe” is a Dollar Brand composition, named for Brand’s former bandmate (and self-proclaimed mentor) Kiepie Moeketsi. It was recorded during Cherry’s tenure as teacher at a youth music camp during the summer of 1971. The 50 teenage musicians mainly devoted themselves to classical European music and Cherry’s unorthodox music and teaching methods initially freaked them. But the students eventually warmed to his approach and play the hell out of “Bra Joe,” their rag-tag approach sometimes lacking precision but exuding passion. Exactly what Cherry wanted. Dig the way his trumpet soars against the strings.
Despite its emergence there in the early sixties, the ‘free-jazz’ movement garnered a limited and very temporary acceptance in America. Following Coltrane’s death, many exponents of free-jazz sought refuge in the (mostly) welcoming arms of other musical styles (to the utter horror of the purist jazz-critics, and true delight of REAL music fans everywhere). Some merged the freedom of jazz with the rhythmic strictures of funk, for example, (Miles, obviously, but also Ornette Coleman’s out-there ‘free-funk’ project, Prime Time). Yet others would take their searches further afield, finding a welcome audience for this most experimental of musical forms, especially in Europe (Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records, for example). This literal movement east-wards was further compounded by a similar psycho-spiritual, inherently mystical movement towards non-western philosophies and cultures: a movement articulated, particularly, through the musical styles and techniques of various third-world countries.
By Julian Cope.
Trumpet, Piano, Harmonium, Vocals- Don Cherry
Flute- Tommy Goldman , Tommy Koverhult
Guitar [Doussn’gouni]  Chris Bothen*
Sarangi- Hans Isgren
Tambura, Vocals- Helen Eggert , Moki Cherry
Trumpet [Muted]- Maffy Falay
Percussion, Trumpet- H’suan
Drums, Percussion- Bengt Berger
Berimbau, Percussion- Nana Vasconcelos
Bass- Tage Siven
Drums- Okay Temiz
D. Cherry* (tracks: A2a, B1, B2, C2, C4, D1, D3) ,
Hans Isgren (tracks: A2b) ,
N. Vasconcelos* (tracks: A1)
A1. North Brazilian Ceremonial Hym   12:20
a)  Elixir   6:00
b)  Manusha Raga Kamboji   2:15
B1. Relativity Suite Part One   6:45
B2. Relativity Part Two   11:55
a). Terry’s Tune   2:00
b). Hope   10:00
c). The Creator Has a Master Plan   6:35
d). Sidharta   1:55
D1. Utopia & Visions   6:30
a). Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro   2:30
b). Terry’s Tune   5:10
D3. Resa   5:40

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