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May 25, 1982 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1982-05-25

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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, May 25, 1982-Page 9
JAZZ IMPROVISATION AT RACKHAM
Dreams' fascinating rhythms

By Robert Weisberg
F AST AND FURIOUS, slow and
sorrowful, emotional and enter-
taining - that was Old and New
Dreams during their two sets last
Friday nigit at the Rackham
Auditorium.
Old and New Dreams is bassist
Charlie Haden, drummer Ed Black-
well, tenor saxman Dewey Redman,
and pocket trumpeter and occasional
pianist and vocalist Don Cherry. Their
music is in the tradition of the 'free
jazz' or 'harmelodics' developed by Or-
nette Coleman's early ensembles.
Indeed, all have worked extensively
with Coleman and their repertoire in-
cludes a sizeable dose of his com-
positions. But that doesn't mean they
can't stand on their own eight legs. As
they proved on Friday, they are in their
own right one of the great im-
provisational bands today.
Sufficient anticipation was generated
by a delay in opening the doors (accor-
ding to Eclipse, the organizers, the
band arrived a bit late; Blackwell
wasn't satisfied with his drum setup
until the second song). As they finally
entered, though, the audience was
treated to an unexpected prelude as the
dour-faced Cherry, looking debonnaire
in a black pinstriped suit and hat com-
plete with feather, created a quiet tune
on the electric piano.
Cherry, low-key as always, sauntered
off stage to a polite round of appaluse
amidst murmers of expectation. After
another slight delay which found the
audience producing some rather
bizzarly arbythmic rhytlmic applause,
the band came out for real. Following a
mumbled introduction by Cherry,
which amounted to all the band would
have to say about their music for the
night, they broke into a rollicking ver-
sion of Coleman's "New Dream".
"New Dream" gave the fairly large
audience a good idea of what was in
store. The band exploded into the
melody as a group. The pace was fast
and seemingly near-chaotic, yet the
musicians, virtuosos all, were totally in
control. Haden moved furiously up and
down his somewhat battered bass, as he

did all night, and Blackwells rapid-fire
drumming was so smooth that it
seemed effortless.
Meanwhile, Cherry took a seat and let
Redman's sax lead the rhythm section
for a while, before disappearing
backstage as he was to do many times
during the night (in fact, he was
nowhere to be found for the second half
of the second set). Cherry then took
over on his tiny pocket trumpet using a
more staccato approach as opposed to
Redman's drawn-out tones.
Finally Haden and Balckwell set up
the return of the band to the melody and
the finish.
Throughout the opening number and
every song, all of the musicians played
cohesively. At no time did the rhythm
section sit back and wait for a horn
player to finish his solo, and vice-versa.
That is the beauty of their brand of
improvisation. Neither the musicians
nor the audience knew what to expect
during a piece: the length, tempo, and
form of the solos were developed as
they went along. Each player used his
own judgment in determining how to
complement a solo, when to end a solo,
or how to weave his music in with the
others' without stepping on anyone
else's music.
Never did the band sound disjointed,
no matter how abstract the im-
provisations. Never was the melody
lost, it would mysteriously appear from
time to time in some form in the midst
of their collective musings. This
mastery of group improvisation made
Friday's show a demonstration of jazz
virtuosity.
The members of the band also ex-
pressed their diverse musical interests.
They have all desired to break away
from standard European musical for-
ms. Cherry has even worked in Africa
with performers sulh as the Mandingo
Griot Society, who were in town a week
ago. and currently have a fine record
out.
This African exposure was shown off
in the middle of the first set in Cherry's
"Mopti." Here, the composer half-
chanted or whispered vocals, leaning
over the mike while laying down the
melody on the piano.
The song, however, was equally

Dewey Redman, saxaphonist for Old and New Dreams, helped out in the
rhythm section.

defined by Blackwell's African inspired
percussion. The audience responded to
the work of the drummer, whose brown
and yellow dashiki was color-
coordinated with his drum set. Fit-
tingly, the last note was his.
Another unique and very well-
received piece was Haden's "Song for
the Whales" in the second set. Here, the
man who has been described as the ar-
chetypal bassist did an incredible job of
recreating the sounds of a whale, with
an occasional assist from the two horn
players who called to each other from
opposite ends of the stage. Employing
the bow on this song only, he used every
technique imaginable - bringing both
hands together and playing under the
bridge to create scratching and

screeching sounds one never would
have thought possible. He demon-
strated an understnding of his in-
strument's dynamics far beyond its
normal range. Indeed, all night Haden
showed his ability to exploit the in-
strument's musical possibilities both
conventionally and unconventionally.
The bottom line is that the audience
enjoyed the show enough to bring the
band (sans Redman, who apparently
had disappeared for good) back for a
bow. The performers did seem to show
a lack of interest at times, and Red-
man's recurring vanishing act did not
help. It also would have been nice for
the band to say a few words about their
music. But beyond this, and this
writer's slight disappointment that
Redman did not produce his musette,
the performance was a good one.
If you'd like an instant replay or a
look at some of what you missed, a fif-
teen minute videotape featuring "Song
for the Whales", most of "New
Dream", and part of the pre-concert
sound check will be presented next
month on Public Access cable channel
9.
The filming, done by Ann Arbor's Bob
Hercules and David Fisher, created
some controversy: according to Her-
cules, Haden had agreed to the
videotaping the day before but neglec-
ted to tell the other members, who
became a bit upset when they saw the
camera floating around. Fortunately,
when told it was for public television
use the band had no qualms, and the
show proceeded as planned. Part of
"Television is not a Box," it will air on
June 9 at 2 p.m., June 10 at 5 p.m., and
June 11 at 10 p.m.
The band has two albums out
domestically. Old and New Dreams and
Playing supplied most of the material
for Friday night's performance. The
latter, recorded live in Austria, is being
hailed with good reason as one of this
year's top releases.

Daily Photo by DEBORAH LEWIS

Don Cherry blows his horn.

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