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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vandermark Salutes Don Cherry

Posted By on 01.19.10 at 02:55 PM

Don Cherry
  • Don Cherry
On Wednesday night at the Hideout Ken Vandermark debuts his new Don Cherry Project with a strong-looking septet. The reedist has long had an interest in Cherry’s music. The Vandermark 5, School Days, and the Sound in Action Trio have all played Cherry tunes, and the DKV Trio has made a specialty of it—the group ripped through the trumpeter’s entire “Complete Communion” suite on Live in Wels & Chicago, 1998 (Okka Disk, 1999), and more than half the pieces on the double album Trigonometry (Okka Disk, 2002) are Cherry originals.

But this new ensemble—reedist Dave Rempis, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Nate McBride, drummer Chad Taylor, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis—is the first one Vandermark has put together exclusively to explore Cherry’s oeuvre. I’m not positive about which Cherry tunes are on tap, but Vandermark tells me that “Complete Communion” and the “more electric/groove-oriented material” from the album Brown Rice will figure into the set.

“Complete Communion” fills side one of the album by the same name, cut for Blue Note in 1965 with saxophonist Gato Barbieri, bassist Henry Grimes, and drummer Ed Blackwell. It introduced an important innovation to free jazz, namely using multiple themes in an extended piece of music. The written material functioned as a set of signposts for a given performance, allowing a variety and richness not possible with a single theme while providing a connective tissue and organic quality not possible with a handful of separate tunes; the various melodic motifs became a network of reference points and improvisational launch pads. Before long Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp followed suit. The work proved ideal for the DKV Trio, which used its melodic ideas to drive and alter furious set-long improvisations.

Brown Rice was cut in 1975, years after Cherry had begun to travel frequently in Europe, where he collaborated with musicians from all over the globe and incorporated bits of their styles and traditions; he was a true pioneer of what came to be called “world music.” Still, the record was made in New York with mostly American players like Frank Lowe, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins. The influence of Indian classical music and Buddhist and African traditions is clear, but Cherry’s sound is his own. On the roiling, groove-oriented material Vandermark refers to, I expect McBride will pull out his electric bass and Karayorgis will move to Fender Rhodes.

What’s also interesting about the band Vandermark has put together is the pointed absence of a trumpet player. Filling such shoes would be an unenviable task, and at any rate the important things with Cherry’s music aren’t the instruments used but rather the ideas, feelings, and melodies. The Don Cherry Project will head to Philadelphia for a performance produced by the illustrious Ars Nova Workshop on Friday, and before they leave town the band, joined by guitarist Jeff Parker, will not only play that Hideout show tomorrow but also improvise in smaller groupings on Thursday night at Elastic.

Today’s playlist:

John Tilbury, Triadic Memories/Notti Stellate a Vagli (Atopos)
Jonathon Haffner, Life on Wednesday (Cachuma)
Torben Snekkestad, Conic Folded (ILK)
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet, Live at Jazz Standard NYC (Dafnison)
Jim Black Alasnoaxis, Houseplant (Winter & Winter)

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