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Exploding on the jazz scene in the late '50s as a member of Ornette Coleman's pioneering band, Don Cherry left the Coleman aggregation in '65 to pursue a solo career. This, his fifth date as a leader and his second album on Blue Note, was a continuation of the free jazz sonic explorations that made the Coleman band so groundbreaking. The thirty-year-old cornet and pocket trumpet player was beginning to step out from the long shadow of the controversial saxophonist.
Consisting of two movements of over nineteen minutes each, the reissued Symphony for Improvisers is a lesson in controlled chaos that remains eminently musical. The first movement consists of explosive music with Pharoah Sanders playing piccolo, while Gato Barbieri, Cherry, and Karl Berger let loose with a cacophony. Underpinning it all is the near-relentless polyrhythmic churning of drummer Ed Blackwell and the steady basses of Henry Grimes and JeanFrancois Jenny-Clark. The more musically varied second movement begins with a brief, mellow solo by Cherry. Things soon switch into high gear again with shotgun saxophone solos from Barbieri and Sanders, with other band members joining in the musical gala as they take the music to its conclusion, stopping on a dime.
This music is cerebral without being cold, freewheeling without degenerating into a lot of blowing for the sake of blowing. Never boring, Symphony for Improvisers is for jazz fans with lengthy attention spans and open ears.
Track Listing: Symphony for Improvisers: Symphony for Improvisers/Nu Creative Love/Wha; Manhattan
Cry: Manhattan Cry/Lunatic/Sparkle Plenty/Om Nu.
Personnel: Gato Barbieri: tenor saxophone; Karl Berger: piano, vibraphone; Ed Blackwell: drums; Don
Cherry: trumpet, cornet; Henry Grimes: bass; Jean-Fran
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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