July 31, 2017

Don Cherry - Symphony For Improvisers (1966)

Blue Note doesn't have a very vast free jazz selection in their catalog, but whenever they pressed some of this crazy stuff to wax they made sure it was on-point. Symphony From Improvisers is one of three Don Cherry dates with the classic Blue Note administration (before Alfred Lion's departure and the end of Reid Miles' affiliation, I mean). The other two are Complete Communion and Where Is Brooklyn?; both quartets. Cherry's symphony this time around is seven musicians, complete with a two bass attack and the special pairing of Gato Barbieri and Pharoah Sanders as supporting horns. From a purely historical standpoint, I'm sure many people would love to buy this on the fact alone that this is Pharoah Sanders on Blue Note (unusual) playing picolo. Cherry stays true to his days with Ornette Coleman and chooses to steer away from a piano in his band on all three of his Blue Note dates, but he's rocking with a vibraphonist for this album only--his name is Karl Berger. I am not familiar with him, but he sure cranks out a great performance for this album. People who enjoy the more adventurous works of Bobby Hutcherson and Walt Dickerson will love this. Henry Grimes and Ed Blackwell are part of the rhythm section--unsurprising since they had always been frequent Cherry/Coleman collaborators.

I see Symphony For Improvisers as sort of a sister album to either Cecil Taylor's Conquistador or Unit Structures. I guess this is mainly because Cherry and Taylor were really the only two on Blue Note to record albums like this, but it also might be because of the Henry Grimes crossover and the consistent Rudy Van Gelder mastering. Symphony can be considered more colorful and fun compared to the slightly more serious and cerebral works of Cecil Taylor. Unlike Taylor in 1966, Don Cherry uses a more prominent bop backbone in his music, giving it a very wonky and loony feel. I don't know how many of you have been on the Winnie The Pooh ride in Disney World, but whenever I hear this album, I'm reminded of that room with all the trippy Heffalump shit (that purple elephant thing). Enjoy.


Symphony For Improvisers