Out of print in the U.S. for more than four decades, Don Cherry’s meditative, inventive outsider jazz classic, Brown Rice, is available on vinyl once again as of today via Verve/UMe. The Corrado Baccheli-produced album is pressed on standard weight black vinyl and housed in a replica sleeve with original liner notes from acclaimed jazz critic Stanley Crouch.
Brown Rice contains the apogee of Cherry’s influences: African, Indian, Arabic and American music are all thrown into the same psychedelic stew. This inventive combinative MO was a resting state for Cherry. Taught at the feet of avant-garde saxophonist Ornette Coleman, the trumpeter accelerated quickly into the unknown.
He recorded with Coleman, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and the New York Contemporary Five — and helmed free jazz classics like 1961’s The Avant-Garde (with Coltrane), 1965’s Complete Communion and 1971’s Orient. Where those albums were fiery and provocative, Brown Rice is a subtler, more accessible listen — without losing an ounce of Cherry’s experimentation.
The title track is all disembodied whispers and yawps of saxophone noise; electric pianist Ricky Cherry grounds the eerie vibe with a hypnotic motif. “Malkauns” pits Charlie Haden’s bluesy upright bass against Moki Cherry’s tamboura drone — until the two are joined by drummer Billy Higgins and burst into a frenetic, serpentine dance. On “Chenrezig” and “Degi-Degi,” he dug into thrumming Middle Eastern pulses — and transcended “world music” in favor of a borderless musical language. As Stanley Crouch begins his liner notes: “There is joy laced with confidence in this music, and sadness, or pathos, that is as much connected to the Blues as it is to the huge yearning of that sound in Eastern music.”
The result is a wonderful entryway into the work of Cherry — whose revolutionary approach looms large in the jazz world. Notably, “Chenrezig” was recorded by Michael Mantler, the Austrian trumpeter who brought Cherry’s cross-cultural fusions into his work for ECM Records. Cherry’s children and stepchildren, Eagle-Eye Cherry, David Ornette Cherry, Christian Cherry, Neneh Cherry and Titio have made waves in the jazz, hip-hop and alternative rock spheres.
Brown Rice has been unavailable on vinyl in the US since 1977, but those interested in the outer limits of American music can now own a far-out classic once again. Whether you’re a student or an uninitiated musical seeker, it’s never been easier to get lost in the poignant cries of Cherry.
Brown Rice Track Listing
1. Brown Rice