In the same year that composer/multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry recorded his milestone Complete Communion (Blue Note, 1966) he took his cornet to the studio of Danish National Radio. Cherry had established himself by the early 1960s, playing with Steve Lacy, Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley, John Coltrane, Charlie Haden, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler and Ed Blackwell. Copenhagen began a long reign as a Northern European jazz mecca in the 1950s. In 1966 Cherry began a residency at that city's iconic Café Montmartre and recorded these previously unreleased tracks during an earlier session at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation facility. On Cherry Jam, a vinyl EP from London-based Gearbox Records, Cherry is joined by four local musicians who while more than capable, are unfamiliar names outside their country.
Drummer Simon Kopel had recorded on three Krzysztof Komeda albums as part of an ongoing quintet that included Michal Urbaniak and Tomasz Stanko. Pianist Atli Bjørn and his trio teamed with Dexter Gordon on Cry Me A River (SteepleChase, 1978) and played with a half-dozen regional bands. His recording career with these groups ran from the mid-1950s through the early 1980s. Bassist Benny Nielsen had worked with Palle Mikkelborg and Sahib Shihab but like Bollerup, he has a very limited recording resume. Tenor saxophonist Mogens Bollerup appears only in the credits of a German release, John Tchicai And Cadentia Nova Danica's Afrodisiaca (MPS Records, 1969), where he played percussion on a petrol can on one track.
The four compositions on Cherry Jam include three Cherry originals and a cover of Richard Rodgers' 1928 show tune "You Took Advantage of Me." Other than that cover, Cherry is leading the group in the gospel of hard bop. "The Ambassador from Greenland" opens the first side with driving and impressive solos from Nielsen and Bjørn. The more subdued Rodgers tune follows and the band bows to the mainstream. "Priceless" has Cherry and company firing on all cylinders and Bollerupoften playing in unison with the cornetgetting a moment to shine on his own. The album wraps up with the steamrolling "Nigeria" packing a serious groove.
The Danes on the session are a fine rhythm section able to implement Cherry's peculiar blend of avant-garde, free jazz and hard bop. As he moved further into a more erudite phase with Blue Note, Cherry's direction was tipped off here in sophisticated spectacles of sounds and rhythm; sharp, powerful and direct. Cherry Jam is brief at less than thirty-five minutes, but it concentrates a lot of energy and fun into that time.
Side A: The Ambassador from Greenland; You Took Advantage of Me. Side B: Priceless; Nigeria.
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