Don Cherry

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Nu Review

by arwulf arwulf

During the middle 1980s trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry led a group he chose to call Nu. Propelled by bassist Mark Helias and percussionists Ed Blackwell and Nana Vasconcelos, the unit was also enhanced by the presence of alto saxophonist and flutist Carlos Ward, who in 1983 had distinguished himself as a member of Abdullah Ibrahim's Ekaya band. On at least two occasions Don Cherry and Nu were recorded live at jazz festivals in Europe. Eight tracks culled from their July 5 1986 performance at the Bracknell Jazz Festival were preserved by the BBC and partially released on their Jazz Legends series, but contractual red tape seems to have prevented this material from being properly presented, acknowledged or distributed until 2001, when the initial LP-length album was enlarged with three additional tracks. The playlist features two by Ornette Coleman and three by Ward, as well as Nana's feature for the Amazonian berimbau, a sanguine rhythmic groove attributed to Helias and Cherry's unforgettable "Mopti". Another Nu performance was taped in Bleiburg Austria on July 19, but that material has yet to be legitimately released. Chronologically, the BBC's Nu album lands neatly between El Corazon, Cherry's 1982 ECM collaboration with Ed Blackwell, and 1989's Art Deco, his celebrated return to A&M, the label that presented his popular Brown Rice album in 1976. Also in 1989 Blackwell, Ward and Vasconcelos would reappear on Cherry's equally fine A&M album, Multikulti.

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