I borrowed this record from my local library as a Miles Davis obsessed sixteen-year-old, as it had John Mclaughlin on it. What I discovered was Don Cherry. This track captivated me and I still love it.
The music is a great early example of using the recording studio to conjure up a vision of some kind of imaginary ‘ancient to the future’ ( to quote from the Art Ensemble of Chicago) pan-cultural space.
Recorded in 1970, this predates Jon Hassell’s ‘Vernal Equinox’ by nearly a decade.
The track starts with a tape loop of some Indian music (flute and tamboura), sounding like it was fished out of a pond. The ‘Desert Band’ fade in, and Don Cherry’s trumpet sound evokes musical traditions much more ancient than jazz. This is what I always loved about his playing- it feels connected to something universal and timeless. There is no attempt at sounding polished or slick.
In the liner notes for the live album “Actions” (1971) Cherry is quoted as saying “I hate professionalism… (it) became like a religion in some quarters. To me there’s more to religion than that.”
Cherry plays what sounds like an improvised melodic line. This section of the tape is then repeated later in the piece (with slightly different editing at the end), which has the effect of transforming an improvised line into a theme. This is exactly the same technique that was used by Teo Macero on Miles Davis records of the period, especially “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew”.
In a long and fascinating article about the making of the record, Carla Bley says that A.I.R. and some of the other pieces “…didn’t yet exist – all being Frankenstein creations put together later from bits and pieces of discarded materials.
To read the article by Carla Bley, click on “Accomplishing Escalator Over the Hill” .