On their first stand-alone record as a duo, Ken Vandermark and Hamid Drake celebrate their 30+ year playing relationship with an electrifying live set of pieces, all featuring music composed by legendary free jazz musician Don Cherry. Restricting himself here to tenor saxophone, Vandermark has developed an almost telepathic understanding with Drake, whose masterful work on the drum kit has rarely been more focused and relaxed. The music was recorded in Corbett vs. Dempsey's main space on the closing day of the gallery's exhibition of work by Moki Cherry, Don's partner in the Organic Music Society, whose powerful tapestries and paintings were often key elements in the Cherry's performances. Drake and his family in fact lived with the Cherry family in their home in rural southern Sweden in the 1970s, and the drummer's personal experiences with her visual art added a special depth to the concert with Vandermark, diving into music from across the great trumpeter's songbook. The program, some of which runs as medleys of different tunes, comes from as far back as Cherry's groundbreaking '60s Blue Note LPs ("Elephantasy," "Complete Communion"), up through the title track of the killer 1975 A&M side Brown Rice, and more culled from later LPs on ECM, including the band Old And New Dreams ("Guinea," "Mopti") and Cherry's beautiful duo album with drummer Ed Blackwell ("El Corazón," "Solidarity"). During the concert, mid-set, Drake stopped playing to tell the story of his time with Don Cherry, including his harrowing experience contracting malaria while playing in Africa; this stirring narrative is transcribed as the liner text in the LP's gatefold. Gorgeously recorded, with Moki Cherry's tapestry "Spirit" on the cover, Eternal River keeps flowing with the ease and wonder of two brilliant Chicago musicians at the top of their game, in their hometown, playing the music they love.
3. El Corazón
1. Brown Rice
3. Complete Communion
All compositions by Don Cherry
Ken Vandermark, tenor saxophone
Hamid Drake, drums
Recorded October 9, 2021, by Alex Inglizian at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.
Mixed and mastered by Alex Inglizian and John Corbett at Experimental Sound Studio. Cover artwork by Moki Cherry. Photos by John Corbett. Cover design by Mike Dyer/Remake.