Mike Reed on Terry Riley/Don Cherry – Live Köln 1975


Percussionist and bandleader Mike Reed’s been bringing together divergent sounds for years, with outfits like Exploding Star Orchestra, People, Places & Things, and Loose Assembly. This year Reed’s latest ensemble gathers together Ben LaMar Gay, Bitchin’ Bajas, and Marvin Tate for The Separatist Party. The album is a vital document of isolation, loneliness, and the need for community filtered through the spiritual jazz legacies of the Organic Music Society, Nigerian funk, and the Arkestra. I asked Reed to pick an album for the Hidden Gems series and he’s picked a site favorite, the Cherry/Riley – Live Köln 1975 document. Astute eyes may note that this is the first entry in the series that has been covered before, but I’m all for fresh perspectives on classics and if you’d like to flip between takes, you can check out Prana Crafter’s dive into the album from 2019 as well. Love this record and Mike’s exploration of it below.

“It wasn’t until 2019 that I discovered the experimental collaborations between legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and the minimalist composer/keyboardist Terry Riley,” notes Reed. “These meetings are exemplified in a completely mesmerizing performance from a mystical duo who captured here in a rare radio performance in Germany from 1975.” 

“On the album released as Terry Riley/Don Cherry – Live Köln 1975, Riley sets the stage with his iconic drones and patterns with Don Cherry sliding in slowly, and beautifully — blowing some less-minimal lines on trumpet that really create a fantastic interplay with the organ. the album’s 32-minute reading of “The Descending Moonshine Dervishes” with a long, spare stretch on electric organ — flowing out in those hypnotic lines that you’d know from his work on Rainbow In Curved Air, and onwards.”
“Terry Riley’s work hearkens to what would be coming in the areas of Krautrock and Post-rock. In comparison to other genres that would fuse ideas (e.g. electric Miles), the blending doesn’t seem to be of equal interplay and doesn’t rely too heavily on one genre hallmark. The defining sounds of a musical style can often be the downfall of other types of genre meetings, that might rely on too much rock in fusion, too much funk, or too much hip-hop. In this outing, Riley and Cherry explore the best parts of each “genre’ in equal amounts; and seem to move in actual improvisational fashion.”

“I suppose that it should come as no surprise that this collaboration would exist since the two artists were so committed to a fearless exploration of music. In more recent times, this live meeting should be of great interest to any music fan who has connected with the music of Rob Mazurek, and Jaime Branch, two brass players who were never afraid to mix genre ideas and incorporate propulsive arpeggiated synth ideas.”

As an unofficial document, physical copies of this one are always arising and getting squashed out of print. There are currently a few versions semi-circulating, but its worth seeking it out in any format. As Mike mentions, it’s a mesmerizing performance that’s been captured in time. However you come to it, its recommend that you check it out. Likewise, The Separatist, is one of the year’s greats and its out now from Astral Sprits / We Jazz.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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