Notes and Editorial Reviews
ORGANIC MUSIC SOCIETY
Don Cherry (voc, perc, hrm, fl, conch shell, tpt, pn); Helen Eggert (voc, tambura); Naná Vasconcelos (voc, berimbau); Christer Bothén (donso n’goni, gnaoua gtr, pn); Bengt Berger (mridanga, log dr, dr, tablas); Hans Isgren (s?rang?); Maffy Falay (tpt); Tommy Goldman (fl); Youth O
CAPRICE 21827 (80:14)
North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn.
Elixir. Relativity Suite,
Parts I and II.
Hope. Sidhartha. Utopia and Visions. Resa.
Manusha Raga Kamboji.
The Creator Has a Master Plan.
Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro
Basically, this is the soundtrack for a Hippie Love-In. If you recall Andre Gregory’s description (in the cult film
My Dinner With Andre
) of Findhorn, the New Age center in northern Scotland where they grow giant vegetables “in close cooperation with nature spirits (devas),” this is the kind of music they’d probably listen to. As Shel Silverstein sang in his tune “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball,” “Blow a whistle / Bang a gong / Roll up something to take along!” Especially when listening to the first track, a 12-minute pseudo-Buddhist chant with percussion sound effects reminiscent of Spike Jones’s City Slickers, all I could think of was James Coburn in another cult film,
The President’s Analyst,
sitting on a floor in a darkened room, wearing a tie-dyed shirt and torn jeans, banging a gong while strobe lights played on the walls.
But you could probably guess what kind of album this is from the images on the inside cover, accurately reproduced
from the original album art. It is a montage of geometric figures on which are superimposed drawings of birds flying over giant pansies, some sort of Eastern building, Hippie types playing giant gourds and bongos, underground comics-type doodles, and a bunch of people sitting around what looks like a flower garden in a sort of love-in position. With the second track of the album,
we hear Cherry blowing into a conch shell. The percussion, happily, has taken off for somewhere else, and we also hear a harmonium, flute, and Cherry’s trumpet. In
Cherry sings/drones the kind of lines you heard in communes around the world in the early 1970s: “How does it feel to love Jesus? How does it feel to love Buddha? How does it feel to love Krishna? How does it feel to love Jehovah?” Well, he asks the questions, but he doesn’t get any answers.
Time to put out the lava lamps. “Take me with you, man . . . I’m tired of this Earth trip!”
Parts of this album (once past the opening drone-with-percussion) sound like Yusef Lateef. Parts of it sound like Meredith Monk, parts like Philip Glass—well, actually, Terry Riley, because one of his pieces is included—and parts of it like no one else. We get a sort of jazz-reggae beat in
Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro
, but despite Cherry’s jazz pedigree (including a famous stint with Ornette Coleman’s first New York band) you really can’t call this music jazz. It’s a freewheeling stab at combining folk music of various nations with chanting and a little jazz thrown in for seasoning. Much of it works; some doesn’t. Overall, it’s a mixed bag, more like a dated slice of our cultural history (it sounds like the kind of stuff you heard on late-night New York FM stations in the immediate post-Woodstock era) than a timeless classic, as, for instance, is George Russell’s minimalist jazz-classical cantata
Listen to the Silence.
Yet it is worth experiencing, so long as you simply skip the opening track.
The liner notes say that this album proved that jazz is a form of folk music. Well, no, it isn’t, no matter what the sociologists claim. Alan Lomax tried to prove that point at the Smithsonian in the 1930s and failed. Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie did NOT mix with Bunk Johnson or Jelly Roll Morton, even though they tried. And Hippie “trip music” isn’t jazz either. And yet, this is withal a cheerful and uplifting album. I personally find that it makes terrific wake-up music—including, or maybe especially, the Buddhist drone with percussion. It’s great music to make the bed, feed the cats, and boot up your brain by!
This is a CD issue of the two-LP set recorded in 1971-73 and issued in the latter year on Caprice RIKSLP 44/50. I’m happy to say that they actually provide this information on the CD packaging. This is the difference between jazz reissues (although, as you see, this disc is only peripherally related to jazz) and classical people . . . they tell you things! Recommended with the above caveats.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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