Listen to This While Traveling at Night
No genre labels adequately describe the music made by the trio of trumpeter Don Cherry, sitar and dulcimer master Colin Walcott, and hand percussionist Naná Vasconcelos. It is largely improvised, but light-years removed from jazz. It has riveting, beautifully recorded ethnic percussion conversations that are too open, too transparent, to fall under the catchall term "world music."
Codona, simply, is its own universe. When it started, in 1978, trumpeter Cherry was busy making solo records, Walcott was leading his band Oregon through some of the most ambitious music it ever made, and Vasconcelos was beginning his solo career, focusing on the bow-shaped Brazilian instrument known as the berimbau.
On this third album, the three continue to explore the connections between ethnic music and the questing spirit of free jazz. They've evolved an entire vocabulary, a fantasy world in which Brazil meets India. The groove that erupts six minutes into "Goshakabuchi" is characteristic: Everything leading up to this has been calm and tempoless, with each musician offering an expansive, free-associative lark. Suddenly Vasconcelos crashes into a downbeat and keeps going, churning out a clatter of metallic percussion that sounds like a rainstorm hitting a tin roof. Within seconds, Walcott is banging an SOS on the strings, and Cherry is tossing out squabbling little provocations. "Travel by Night," the third track, hits a more intense groove, and sustains it brilliantly. Its multitextural and unclassifiable music doesn't hit you over the head with weighty themes. Instead, it's journeying music, forever unfolding and evolving.
Genre: Jazz, World
Released: 1982, ECM
Key Tracks: "Travel by Night," "Lullabye," "Clicky Clacky," "Goshakabuchi," "Inner Organs."
Catalog Choice: Codona 1, Codona 2
Next Stop: Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (featuring Naná Vasconcelos): As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls
After That: King Crimson: Lark's Tongues in Aspic
Book Pages: 178–179