Last year Prana Crafter’s Will Sol released two vital parch-folk LPs for Beyond Beyond is Beyond and Sunrise Ocean Bender, both showcasing his mossy, forest-folk prowess mixed with a tenancy to scratch that wooded habit with the key to the cosmos. He’s pushed the cosmic tendencies even further this year with a split with Tarotplane that uses one side of a 12” to wind his folk into kosmiche delights. It seemed only natural, then to ask Will to contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series and see what’s driven his sound. Will’s picked a ’75 collaboration from Terry Riley and Don Cherry that picks at a peirod that pushed both artists catalogs to in new and interesting directions. Check out how this came into Will’s live and what impact it’s had on his music.
Will recalls, “I grew up in the 80s and 90s, so the music I heard was either on the radio, something I bought at the record store (probably on tape), something I heard on MTV, something I heard from a friend, or something I found in my dad’s record collection. Pretty much none of the sources mentioned included anything experimental or any jazz. My mom was married briefly to a guy who did play in a jazz quintet, but I was really young, and though this may have influenced me through osmosis, I don’t remember many details about it, just some vague images of watching them sitting around in a circle in our basement. My dad’s record collection had all the classic rock, country, bluegrass, and a lot of obscure blues, but the only jazz was Frank Zappa, which as a kid and teenager, I really didn’t get. Because I grew up on 80s-90s punk, Seattle rock, classic rock, and bluegrass/acoustic music, the first free form music I heard was the Dead and after that it was Medeski, Martin, and Wood, which I heard when I moved to Olympia Washington in 2000 to go the Evergreen State College. MM&W led to me John Scofield, which led to Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot. Somewhere in there I developed an affinity for electric era Miles, Sun Ra, and interstellar Coltrane, but somehow the cosmic-comedian-trickster-energy was still keeping me behind a veil, away from sonic treasures including Kosmische music and what would become some of my favorite improvisational jazz.”
“Several years ago,” he continues, “I was in a course with a pioneer of alternative psychology named Don Hanlon Johnson. He was one of the founders of somatic psychology and as a Jesuit in the early 60s he took acid near Big Sur and eventually became a regular at Esalen back when people like Fritz Perls, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers were involved. Don’s an amazing man who at over 80 years old still backpacks, kayaks, teaches, and was a mountain climber until he fell from a cliff in his 70s. When I was talking to him about my musical interests, he told me that his dissertation on symbolic consciousness, completed at Yale in the early sixties, was based off the experimentations in electronic music done by a guy in his California social scene, a man name Terry Riley. I went home and looked him up and immediately loved what I was hearing, which was Shri Camel.”
“I then asked a friend named John Nicol about Riley because he seemed to always have the low-down on any musician I asked him about. He pointed me in the direction of the collaborations between Don Cherry and Terry Riley, which absolutely blew my mind and have become a regular fixture within my headphones. I do a LOT of headphone-enhanced writing and reading because I’m working on a dissertation around the topic of musical improvisation and sense of agency and have found the duo’s performance in Köln from 1975 to be particularly magical in terms of bringing me into a very focused yet creative space. Karl Berger sits in on vibraphone and introduces a texture that feels like some type of technology from an ancient machine, a premonition of the computer age to come. The interplay between these masters of improvisation and mood is like a sonic representation of the interplay between natural systems via the organic intersections that are in nature: powerful, flowing, dynamic, and absolutely transformative. There is a deep sense of freedom and the expansiveness that comes with this alchemy; Riley’s fingers cascade like rain — unpredictable like nature, sometimes crashing in rhythmic patterns and other times tapping lightly like a whisper, always an air of uncertainty as to what will happen next. Cherry’s trumpet howls like mountain winds bending branches and filling the landscape with a lonesome sense of peace. The discovery of Riley also led me to continue to explore Don Cherry’s recordings and that has been a powerful and exceedingly gratifying experience as well. So, in terms of sharing a hidden gem that caused me to throw up my arms, look around, and say “how has it taken me 30 years to find this???,” I think Terry Riley and Don Cherry live in Köln in 1975 is something that many of your readers will love if they haven’t already had the good fortune of hearing it.”
*If any experimental musician’s out there (who currently perform and release albums) are interested in being part of my research, please reach out via social media and I can put you on my list of potential participants!
Peace from the woodlands of Washington,
Honestly, I’d been a fan of both Riley and Cherry, but mostly in a spearate sense. I was aware of their collaborations but not wholly immersed in them as Will is. This set from ’75 is a testament to, not only the players’ power and prowess, but to the nature of experimentation and improvisation. It’s highly recommended for fans of either artist. The original LP is long out of print, and was issued as a bootleg. However, it’s 2019 and that means everything gets reissued somewhere along the lines. Alternative Fox issued a new version this year, though I’m unsure how official this version is either. Hoping some money is headed towards the respective poles on this one. Sadly for us Statesiders, this is mostly an EU pressing, but it can be found at some import prices. Recommended that you check out the sounds as this one is a true Gem.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.