Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Don Cherry: Don Cherry [Horizon, 1976]
A clear-eyed charity animates Cherry's three recent albums: Eternal Now (Antilles), dominated by Asian and African folk instruments; Hear & Now (Atlantic), produced with standard electric jazz instrumentation by Narada Michael Walden; and this Eastward-looking acoustic jazz LP. Rather than transporting him into kitschy esoterica or providing an excuse for profitable one-worlder populism, Cherry's religious leanings seem to inspire a gut respect for the uses of musical ritual, whether in a Chinese temple or a movie-theatre-turned-rock-palace, so that he can recycle what is fresh about the folk roots and popular branches of the free-jazz idiom without betraying his own commitment to it. Not that his work isn't marred by rambling passages and received riffs; even this album, featuring musicians like Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, has its share of sappy moments. But I can't think of a fusion hustler or black Buddhist who couldn't learn something from his sweetness and acuity. B+