Old And New Dreams: Playing (ECM 1205)

 

Old And New Dreams
Playing

Don Cherry trumpet, piano
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone, musette
Charlie Haden bass
Ed Blackwell drums
Recorded live, June 1980, Theater am Kornmarkt, Bregenz (Austria)
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This fantastic set, recorded live in Austria, is the place to start for anyone wanting a glimpse into the attic of Old And New Dreams. The playing is on point, the crowd riled, and the stakes high. From that first lively jump into “Happy House,” one of three extended Ornette Coleman tunes, we are plunged into the group’s quintessential sonic parameters. Lithe syncopations from Dewey Redman relate to Ed Blackwell’s drumming like family, while the free-flowing trumpeting of Don Cherry loosens its grip on predictability for a style that is utterly devoid of pretense and ever eager to communicate. Charlie Haden’s melodious plasticity completes a formula that carries through to the last drop. Just listen to the gut-wrenching tenor solo in “New Dream,” the liquid horns and percolating toms of “Broken Shadows,” where Redman’s musette also unfurls for a fantastically CODONA-like sound, and tell me there isn’t something special going on here.

Cherry drops a groovy hit of his own with the pointillist “Mopti,” of which the infectious pianism from the composer and attuned percussion delight. Redman contributes “Rushour,” the album’s most incendiary flush. The incredible saxophonism and expansive lyric trumpeting spread their joys far and wide. The title track comes from the hand of Haden, around whose spine horns weave like a medical caduceus before being lobbed back into their familiar station like ping-pong balls at the ready.

Considering the heft of talents assembled here, the results are weightlessly executed. This shows not weakness or lack of fortitude, but the maturity everyone brings to the sonic table. This is a solid date from musicians who know the business inside and out, and then some. About as good as it gets. Reissue, anyone?

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.