It is gratifying to read A.B. Spelling's original liner notes for Don Cherry's 1966 recording Symphony for Improvisers, the first sentence of which begins "The New Music is no longer new and goes on to point out the developments over the preceding ten years. Free jazz is still a powerful draw for musicians and still inspires indifference at best from most listeners. Perhaps this newly remastered CD from a high point of the genre's history will reel in a few new converts.
The recording quality is, as you'd expect, impeccableand in addtiion to Spellman's original notes we have further enlightenment from Rudy Van Gelder, who provides valuable insight into the music itself. The title is a bit misleading, suggesting much more intricate music played by a much larger group than is the case. It's really a small (though top notch) band mostly blowing free over rudimentary forms. The biggest marvel about it, aside from some of the inspired playing, is its seamless movement from one piece to the next and how lightly, yet sometimes emphatically, the composed music coexists with the improvised.
Cherry's writing here is still redolent of the influence of Ornette Coleman, but otherwise he stepped out of the big man's shadow and assumed the mantle of leader with confidence and strength, assembling a strong group that includes Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri, Henry Grimes, Karl Berger, Jean-François Jenny-Clark, and the titanic Ed Blackwell, who gives the sometimes raucous music the rhythmic underpinnings found in all great jazz. Cherry's trumpet playing is also at it's best: loose, lyrical and hair-raising at times.
Symphony for Improvisers: Symphony for Improvisers/Nu Creative Love/Wha;
Manhattan Cry: Manhattan Cry/Lunatic/Sparkle Plenty/Om Nu.
Gato Barbieri: tenor saxophone;
Karl Berger: piano, vibraphone;
Ed Blackwell: drums;
Don Cherry: trumpet, cornet;
Henry Grimes: bass;
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