Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5
Don Cherry was one of the more notable jazz trumpeters, often appearing as a collaborator or sideman to jazz greats like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane in the late 1950's and 1960's. On this album as bandleader, Cherry guides the music into world music sounds on the first LP while working on the more avant-garde side of acoustic jazz on the second. You'll hear echoes of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and Albert Ayler among others on this album, but Cherry is still able to bring together a singular and fascinating vision of his own.
The opening track claims to be a northern Brazilian ceremonial hymn, but there are plenty of other world music hints here as well such as Indian drones and Tibetan percussion. The track is a slowly building chant which is supported by a growing percussion section and the 'ceremonial' claim of the title certainly comes across as accurate. "Elixir" gives us a full blast of tribal percussion framed by a flute solo and Indian-inspired violin (although the violin playing does comes across as a little scratchy). "Relativity" is a two part suite which unfortunately repeats the basic bass line of "Elixir," but does continue with awesome percussion and adds in some chanting that finds space between the contemporaneous chants of Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, and a bit of speaking in tongues.
You really don't hear a whole lot of Cherry's trumpet on the first LP, but the more jazz-oriented second disc features more of his playing (and I'm guessing that's him on the flute as well). For most of this disc, the band drifts in and out of several tunes, coming across as a group of far-out jazz cats having a 3am jam in an opium den. Although not quite free jazz, this music is very improvisational sounding, but in a very gentle and drifting way as opposed to the harsh, confrontational sound that 60's and 70's avant-garde jazz can often dish out. The closing track, "Resa," is separated from this motif. It sounds like a live recording (although a perfectly listenable one), and edges a touch in spots towards Albert Ayler's free jazz swoon.
This is a fine late night record for those of you interested in the trippier side of jazz. While not an absolute classic, there are some wonderful sonic colors to discover on this LP, and the cover art definitely puts a nice bow on this package.