Crystal Clear (Exposition)
Baby's Breath (Unaccompanied)
02. Eternal Rhythm, Part 2 (23:37)
Crystal Clear (Development)
Bass – Arild Andersen
Cornet, Gamelan [Gender, Saron], Flute [Bengali Flute In A, Bamboo Flute In C, Metal Flute In B Flat, Plastic Flute In C], Performer [Haitian Guard], Bells [Northern Bells], Voice, Composed By – Don Cherry
Cover, Layout – Heinz Bähr
Drums, Gamelan [Saron], Gong, Bells, Voice – Jacques Thollot
Guitar – Sonny Sharrock
Piano, Piano [Prepared] – Joachim Kühn
Tenor Saxophone, Oboe, Clarinet, Flute – Bernt Rosengren
Trombone – Albert Mangelsdorff, Eje Thelin
Vibraphone, Piano, Gamelan [Gender] – Karl Berger
Don Cherry's Eternal Rhythm Group was organised and recorded in collaboration with the Berlin Jazz Festival, Nov 11th and 12th 1968.
Gamelan instruments by courtesy of the Indonesian Embassy, Bonn-Bad Godesberg, Germany.
Don Cherry is, in my opinion, one of the most innovative, intriguing figures in jazz. A founder of the world fusion jazz, Cherry studied music from all across the globe and melded it into massive, powerful and free-flowing suites of music. Looking at the credits on Eternal Rhythm , you'll notice that his musicianship had no geographical bounds. Sure, there's a typical jazz entourage on here - trumpet, tenor sax, trombone, drums and piano. But it's complimented by a whole host of uncommon instruments. Along side the classics are a vibraphone, saron, flute, multiple gongs, and a whole host of gamelan / eastern instruments. Cherry didn't hesitate to venture outside of traditional instrumentation but didn't seem to do so just to be different.
While plenty of jazz musicians hopped on the popular "spiritual jazz" wagon in the 70's, Cherry seemed to be slightly ahead of the game. In the 50's, he teamed up with some of the odder characters in jazz - Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp. All three would become part of "The New Thing", the spark that conceived the free jazz movement. In 1960, he continued the trend, teaming up with John Coltrane for The Avant-Garde , an archival release that would seem ironically tame by its 1966 release. By the time Eternal Rhythm was released, Cherry was an experienced, accomplished musician.
What made Cherry stand out amongst his mid 60's / early 70's contemporaries, however, was his earnestness as a musician. I find that while many musicians simply added eastern elements to appear trendy or enlightened, Cherry took a different approach. He seemed to add different influences as a way of increasing the freedom of his music. In his albums, eastern instruments are used to play African spirituals, Eastern ones play Americanized tunes, etc. He experiments and toys with new musical ideas in this manner to increase the possible combinations and add an almost global feel to his songs. No cultural borders would stifle his creativity or independence as a musician. And while many spiritual jazz artists focus on the meditative, Cherry did the opposite - he was brash, bold and experimental.
Its main focus is certainly musical freedom. It's essentially a massive jam session, split into two parts, with little musical structure throughout. Part I of the suite uses instruments to create pure chaos. Gongs crash awkwardly, horns scream in the background and these xylophones clang around uncomfortably. The first half of this track essentially lacks harmony, though there are some moments where the musicians reach a bit of a consensus. They get in sync occasionally but quickly depart into more exploratory sessions. They continually meet in common ground, only for brief moments, only to continue in a cacophonous exercise.
Part II reinforces the same themes but includes more harmonious sections. The band starts off aggressively free, again, with screeching instruments, a bit of yelping and polyrhythmic drumming. But the band settles down and creates a mellower, more spiritual passage of music. It still feels very organic and powerful but the moments of harmony make it an easier listen. The "freeness" of this jazz ebbs and flows and it's incredible to hear them break apart the music and build it back together again. That's really the beauty of Eternal Rhythm .
There's also an incredible section towards the middle of this track (16-20minutes) where the band's chemistry becomes apparent. They suddenly erupt into a spiritual, bluesy track, much more traditional than the rest of the recording. It's gorgeous passage and Cherry in particular provides some outstanding solos.
What I like about Cherry is his ability to blend chaos with more accessible tunes. It's very easy to critique free jazz, because a lot of it is experimental and as a result, grating. I rarely find myself listening to or enjoying much from the movement but someone like Cherry is intriguing. He proves that he can break apart music and rebel in his own musical manner. And after he does so, he proves that he can also create a gorgeous passages of traditional music with a number of nontraditional influences.
Phenomenal listen, all around.