Side note: for those in New York, I’ll be doing a guest set of Japanese pop heavy hitters with Evan Neuhausen on WNYU (89.1 FM) tonight at 7:30. Spoiler alert: there will be bird sounds.
In 1975, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley and jazz trumpet cosmonaut Don Cherry joined forces for a magnetic performance in Köln, Germany. Recorded live, but never commercially released, the concert is something of a hushed treasure, as well as the only record of a profound spiritual experience and meeting of two free form jazz titans. Riley’s swirling synth, droning and clairvoyant and prescient in its clarity, parades along with a triumphant Cherry, leaving behind trails of mystery and a sense of beauty in a larger, more universal form. Side A, the twenty-minute “Descending Moonshine Dervishes,” is a transcendent moment of improvisational experimentation and spiritual jazz. As Cherry’s physical presence slowly liquifies, “the lonesome foghorn blows” into some kind of misty dawn. His mournful trumpet immerses the listener into dense layers of playful percussion and dissonance. When Karl Berger joins the duo on vibraphone for side B, the tone becomes more hypnotic and reedy – a strange mystical noir – with the final three-and-a-half minutes of “Improvisation” exuding a vivid imagination. A lucid and rhythmic front row seat to the startling beauty of minimalist explorations and eloquent fusions of Eastern and Western ideas.
Ernie was a Portland area Jazz legend, along with his brother, saxophonist Bill Hood. Ernie played with many great jazzbo dudes in the 30’s and 40’s, before his career was cut short by polio. He ventured into community radio and also played improvisational Zither music. His son Tom (who gave me this LP) once played me a recording at my house at 3AM of Ernie jamming in his kitchen with Airto Moriera. It was amazing! Ernie went on to help co-found KBOO radio, where his son is now the station engineer (and a damn fine DJ).