Old And New Dreams: s/t (ECM 1154)

 

Old And New Dreams

Don Cherry trumpet, piano
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone, musette
Charlie Haden bass
Ed Blackwell drums
Recorded August 1979 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Hot on the heels of Old Friends, New Friends comes Old And New Dreams, an operation meant as a new flagship for Ornette Coleman, whose lack of enthusiasm for the project left a gap duly filled by Dewey Redman. The result is this delightful excursion into post-bop outlands that sounds as alive as ever. Two Coleman pieces comprise nearly half of its duration—which is saying much, for like many of ECM’s joints of the 70s, this one breezes by in under 50 minutes. The first Coleman piece, “Lonely Woman,” walks the tightrope stretched by Haden, who hugs the solo spotlight after a string of progressive fadeouts in this otherwise drum- and horn-heavy opener. Redman and Cherry elicit a peculiar distance in their playing, speaking in tongues from beyond a wall of silence. The second is the more upbeat “Open Or Close.” Its buoyant drumming and unhinged horn soloing do nothing to obscure Haden’s brilliance as he kick-starts his usual pensiveness into overdrive. Not to be outdone, Blackwell whips his snare into a froth before the group reconvenes.

With these territories covered, each band member completes the experience with one tune apiece. Blackwell’s “Togo” is a prime vehicle for Cherry, as is the latter’s own “Guinea.” The music here is reflective of the long journey that had led Cherry from the limelight into political protest and back into ECM’s fold. We hear this in his biting themes and pianistic wanderlust. Redman breaks out the musette (or suona, a Chinese shawm) for his “Orbit Of La-Ba,” a mystical detour into sere grooves. “Song For The Whales,” courtesy of Haden, is the last piece of the puzzle, and shows the bassist in a more experimental mode. Even as he glides along his harmonic slides like some large creaking vessel that is part cosmic ship and part bird, we are held firmly into place. Drums and horns tremble like the very gut of the earth letting its voice be known.

This is a superb album, and regardless of whether these dreams are old or new, they never seem to fade. What makes it so strong is its careful balance of sidewinding monologues and the sense of direction that a full band sound brings. One craves that sound throughout and the expectation it manifests, so that when it comes in such thick doses, it heightens our involvement in the listening. It acknowledges us.

2 thoughts on “Old And New Dreams: s/t (ECM 1154)

  1. Of course, “Song for the Whales” is neither concerned with “cosmic ships”, nor with “birds”; it is about singing whales, and Carlie Haden’s bass does a superb copy of a whales song.

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