Don Cherry

Multikulti Soothsayer

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As a standalone single CD, this recording, done over a three-year period and more than any other from Don Cherry, represents a full spectrum overview of all the phases in his nomadic adult musical life. You hear reverence for post-bop and his famed time spent with Ornette Coleman, the spiritual quality of his gentle nature, or his wise and worldly experiences living globally while either playing solo, in small ensembles, or alongside Peter Apfelbaum's Hieroglyphics Ensemble. Using his handy pocket trumpet, piano, doussn' gouni, synthesizers, Norwegian birchwood flute, melodica, or vocals, Cherry explores the hidden charms of his music spanning the decades with a diversity perfectly reflective of the multicultural shamanistic title. There's a distinct earthiness in all of the material, but also a look ahead, up to the nighttime stars with a child-like inquisitiveness the wide-eyed Cherry always exuded. The only constant is Cherry's trademark mushy brass sound, but even that is not heard exclusively in favor of a selfless musical journey that never fails to act as the impetus for this nomadic caravan of his subtle restlessness. The three tracks with the Hieroglyphics Ensemble represent Cherry's new direction in melding various world cultures, but also his influence on young people. "Until the Rain Comes" is a lengthy, developed, definitive Afro-beat ethnic fusion, as repeat guitar lines and the snake-charmer trumpet of Cherry floats over the big-band horns in easy or speedy beat, while Ingrid Sertso-Berger warns of the impending hurricane, a perfect pre-Katrina cautionary tale. Where "Divinity Tree" is a pure Afro-beat gold standard for post-Fela Kuti combos like NOMO or the Budos Band, "Rhumba Multikulti" is an upbeat choral feature with handclaps, one of the vocalists being Allen Ginsberg. "Pettiford Bridge" is a definitive post-bop groove tune written by alto saxophonist Carlos Ward, with a jumpy little angular and fractured melody à la Coleman with Bob Stewart's bottom-end tuba anchoring the lithe drumming of Ed Blackwell. The same band plus Sertso-Berger, Karl Berger on marimba, Apfelbaum on tenor sax and marimba, and Naná Vasconcelos do a "Dedication to Thomas Mapfumo" as the horns do a light, soulful strut African style, and quite tastefully. "Birdboy" is one of the more electronically oriented pieces in a dance reggae beat, with producer David Cherry and John L. Price introducing synths or drum programming respectively. The most arresting and mysterious piece is the title selection, as synthesist Frank Serafine and Cherry set up a mystery train drone with his doussn' gouni while Watts Prophet Anthony Hamilton recites the compelling and fascinating tale of a man seeking a high priestess to correct personal problems, as she asks for "the amount of your donation to my situation for the elimination of negative vibrations." Several of the members of Apfelbaum's collective, including Peck Almond, James Harvey, Jeff Cressman, Will Bernard, Jessica Jones, and Josh Jones, went on to become prominent musicians and leaders in their own right, as much a pivot point for them as is the music of Don Cherry, one of his last efforts before his untimely death. It's a definitive, broad-based effort that comes highly recommended to his fans, and those curious about the world music movement, and what it had developed into by the early '90s.