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Album Review

In 2008 ECM Records began an ambitious and handsome reissue project that brought many catalog titles back into print, in handsome gatefold cardboard digipacks with original artwork, and sold them for budget prices. In 2009 ECM jumped into the game of reissuing catalog titles en masse with budget multiple-disc box sets. Among the first of these are the three mysterious albums by the all-acoustic trio Codona, whose members were multi-instrumentalists Collin Walcott, Don Cherry, and Naná Vasconcelos. Codona are not often spoken of for their groundbreaking approach in melding world folk traditions to improvisation and jazz, but the truth is, they were at the very forefront. They used world music traditions authentically — in the sense that each individual in the group had decades of study and immersion already under his belt before coming to the group — without attempting to water anything down to make it fit. Codona were about listening and flow, and these three CDs are a monumental testament to that. Silence (not the new age artificial kind, but the true musical kind), space, interplay, compositional and improvisational discipline, and a sense of humor and playfulness mark these recordings as indispensable parts of the ECM catalog, and as important additions to each musician's résumé. The truth of the matter, whether they were playing two Ornette Coleman tunes bridged by one by Stevie Wonder as in "Colemanwonder" on their debut, African traditional music as in "Godumaduma" on Codona, Vol. 2, or an original tune such as "Hey Da Ba Doom" by Walcott on Codona, Vol. 3, the same elements were always applied, and always put to rather astonishingly adventurous use. No one composition sounds like another and no group of elements, regardless of how dissimilar — from sitar, tabla, sanza, and hammered dulcimer; to berimbau, cuica, and talking drum; to trumpet, doussn'gouni, flutes, and melodica; to voices — ever sounds out of place or strange no matter how exotic the setting. Codona were the sound of nature unveiled, of music engaged with the universe, of the genuine expertise and good will of a group of master musicians in dialogue with one another. This is remarkable music, and these recordings endure as well as still point the way to what is possible when players check their egos at the door in service of music itself.


Born: 18 November 1936 in Oklahoma City, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Imagination and a passion for exploration made Don Cherry one of the most influential jazz musicians of the late 20th century. A founding member of Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking quartet of the late '50s, Cherry continued to expand his musical vocabulary until his death in 1995. In addition to performing and recording with his own bands, Cherry worked with such top-ranked jazz musicians as Steve Lacy, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and Gato Barbieri. Cherry's most prolific...
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The Codona Trilogy, Don Cherry
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