Eternal Rhythm is a masterpiece on several levels. It was one of the earliest major examples of the idea that it was possible for any and all musical cultures to exist simultaneously, a philosophy that rejected any innate musical hierarchy and had no trouble placing the earthiest blues alongside the most delicate gamelan. It was also a summit meeting between representatives of the American and European jazz avant-garde, black and white, dismissing as meaningless both the cautious attitude of American jazz musicians toward Europeans edging onto their turf and the tentative stance of Europeans playing a music that was not "theirs." More importantly, Eternal Rhythm exists as an utterly spectacular, movingly beautiful musical performance, one of the rare occasions where the listener has a visceral sense of borders falling and vast expanses of territory being revealed for the first time. Cherry balanced compositional clarity, wild free improvisation, and a totally inclusive musical consciousness in a manner seldom achieved, resulting in a cohesive, spellbinding session. His own playing throughout on both trumpet and flute is at his highest levels, but the contributions of his fellow musicians are just as amazing. Special mention should be made of guitarist Sonny Sharrock, whose "glass shards" approach is in full bloom here, and vibraphonist/pianist Karl Berger, who throws himself with sublime abandon into both the gamelan and blues aspects of the piece. If only the pallid "world music" of the succeeding decades had followed this model! Eternal Rhythm is Don Cherry's masterwork and one of the single finest recordings from the jazz avant-garde of the '60s. It is required listening.
Share this page