Aug 29, 2010

Don Cherry - Hear & Now

barabara sounds sez:
Wow, did/does this album ever polarize the self-styled critics...
Dusty terms it important and righteous; Julian Cope is conflicted; CD Universe says it's average, respectable and inoffensive; and AMG hyperventilates, damning it as bombastic cock-rock, lumbering, leaden, warbling, a truly gross example of shtick, a faddish veneer of exotic mysticism — and then compares it to Spinal Tap for good measure! (I've posted the best bits below for a laugh)

As for me... I like it. Clearly it's no classic; and definitely it's dated. But it's worth a few spins for sure. Let me know what you make of it...

dusty sez:
Important 70s work from Don Cherry – one of the first albums to bring his overseas experiments to a larger US audience! The set builds nicely off of styles that Don forged earlier in France and Scandinavia – a freer style of music than his work with Ornette Coleman, and a richly organic groove that builds up strongly from the bottom, often with elements of world music settled in alongside the jazz – but there's also some funkier moments here too, a bit like the Brown Rice album, but looser overall!
The groups on most numbers are relatively large and spiritual – almost like Alice Coltrane at times, but a bit more electric and funky at others… Narada Michael Walden produced, and the whole set's got a very righteous feel...

julian cope's head heritage (aether) sez:
The indecision and lack of confidence affecting Cherry at the time is totally understandable; unfortunately, it also permeates most of this LP - his one real stab at major label acceptance.
That said, a Don Cherry LP bowing to commercial acceptability is a damn sight better than many other artists of the time reaching for similar acceptance, and there are moments of high-brilliance amongst the clotted, over-sentimentalized, clinical pap.

Hear and Now's cover depicts a smiling Cherry posing like Buddha, and holding a trumpet with a bent mouthpiece — an indication of some meditative sounds, but it's really a mishmash of styles with a leaning toward African rhythms... An average collection from Cherry, respectable and inoffensive.

That multi-instrumentalist and world jazz pioneer Don Cherry was able to adopt such a beatific countenance for the cover shot of Hear And Now says much for the power of yoga, given the horrors that follow. The disc has now been reissued as part of Warner Jazz's Atlantic Masters series. But non-yogis should heed this warning: if you only acquire one Don Cherry album in your life, don't acquire this one.
Recorded in December 1976, Hear And Now was produced by drummer/keyboardist Narada Michael Walden, whose crimes against music—particularly at the height of the 1970s fusion era—are of a scale similar to those of pianist Bob James. The album is a truly gross example of Walden's schtick: bombastic cock-rock lead guitars, lumbering bass ostinatos, leaden drums, warbling background vocals, a faddish veneer of exotic mysticism and a sub-Wagnerian taste for dramatic shifts in dynamics. Walden himself is only heard on two tracks, but unfortunately one of them, the opening "Mahakali," features him on tympani.
If Spinal Tap had been a jazz-funk band, and if it had recorded the jazz odyssey talked about in the movie, this is what it would have sounded like.
[and so it goes on...]

Track listing
Mahakali; Universal Mother; Karmapa Chenno; California; Buddha's Blues; Eagle Eye; Surrender Rose; Journey Of Milarepa / Shanti / The Ending Movement--Liberation.

Don Cherry: trumpet, flute, vocal; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1); Stan Samole: guitar (1-5, 7, 8); Ronald Dean Miller: guitar (1, 3); Cliff Carter: keyboards (1-5, 7, 8); Narada Michael Walden: keyboards (7), tympani (1); Colin Walcott: sitar (1); Lois Colin: harp (2, 7); Moki: tamboura (1); Marcus Miller: bass (1, 3); Neil Jason: bass (2, 4, 5, 7, 8); Lenny White: drums (1, 3); Tony Williams: drums (4, 5); Steve Jordan: drums (7, 8); Raphael Cruz: percussion; Sammy Figuero: congas (2-6, 8); Cheryl Alexander: vocals (2); Phoenix Volaitis: vocals (7); Patty Scialfa: vocals (7).

Update (Jan.'11)
Another of Cherry's very best albums, Sangam, is now up at Jazz Archives. Highly recommended.


Anonymous said...

Hear is the place to drop a comment...
Now is the time!

LYSERGICFUNK said... of my favorites albums
Many thanks guido/LF

Feq'wah said...

Nice to hear this now :)
Surely it's not as bad as AMG and Julian Cope describes it. Perhaps not his best work, but i like it.

Thanks for sharing!

taro nombei said...


OK, you're not sitting on the fence with this, are you Guido!

@ Feq'wah said...
Another vote on the plus side.
It's all a question of perspective, I think.

steve said...

Another delightful post! Several of the fusicians I have listened to since the '70's are on board so a no-brainer for me. Who said,"writing about jazz is like dancing about architecture?" [or something like that]

taro nombei said...

@ steve

"writing about jazz is like dancing about architecture" — that's classic!

Thanks for dropping by...

Simon666 said...

Love it, thanks TN :)

taro nombei said...

@ Simon666

OK so I think we have a quorum now — lots of 'likes' and not a single 'dislike' yet.

Always good to 'see' you here SImon!

slovenlyeric said...

An interesting record. How I got it illustrates the perspective question. I saw it for $70.00 on vinyl. I friend said it was not worth it so, I skipped it. Then, I got this from itunes. Had I spent, what for me is a lot of money, I think I would have felt cheated. It is an uneven record with some great moments. When a record is rare people tend to be a bit more polarized.

taro nombei said...

@ slovenlyeric

Listening to the iTumes previews, it sounds pretty good to me, but aybe yes, $70US might be over the top (tho you can be sure AMG never paid that much for it!).
So what is it for you: Great record? Or uneven? Or sitting on the fence?

Let's hear the reactions!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Cherry is a tougher sell for me in the 70s, but I love his 60s stuff, with Ayler.

Edgar Garcia said...

i hear universal mother and think, love ur momma, ad aeternitam

taro nombei said...

@ Edgar Garcia
yeah, the universe is our mother — how can we not love her?

-Otto- said...

Not too bad, this album. It is perhaps similar in a way to Don Cherry's Relativity Suite that he did some 5 years earlier (on JCOA). Thanks!

taro nombei said...

@ Otto
maybe the biggest difference is that AMG actually liked Relativity Suite
thanks for dropping by.

In case anyone wants to hear the two albums side by side, here's a link:

Anonymous said...

As one of the people who contribute reviews to Julian Copes Head heritage Unsung pages, I am continually annoyed when people in the blogosphere treat every review there as though it is written by Julian Cope. The revieiwer is named at the top of each review, and the review there of this LP is NOT by Cope. Give the real reviewers credit where it's due!


taro nombei said...

@ achuma
i'm glad you clarified that.
aether has been duly credited.
i trust you are now feeling annoyed less continually now :-)