Terry Riley/Don Cherry Köln (February 23, 1975) w/ French film of Don Cherry, 1973

Personnel: keyboards, Terry Riley, trumpet, Don Cherry, vibraphone, Karl Berger

Recorded one month after and in the same venue as the famous Köln concert by Keith Jarrett – see my earlier article on Jarrett’s 'Endless' here – this album was first released as a limited edition of 500. As the Discogs description has it, it is ‘a legendary recording that pairs Don Cherry's heavenly trumpet stylings, Terry Riley's psychedelic/minimalist organ work and the vibes of Karl Berger ...’

More than four decades on the concert has never received an official release, possibly as one person states (in another Discogs summary) 'due to the fact that Cherry's trumpet distorts throughout.'

Within jazz, the trumpet always has a transcendent quality - cutting through, providing definition. What is so evocative here is the way Cherry’s contributions are truncated, broken in a way that reinforces the totalising effect of the dense, underwater repetition behind it. This is, at once, disorientating but also offers comfort, as if these moments are remnants of a forgotten melody (or melodies). The lack of development fascinates me.

Such music requires a different kind of listening experience. The details, the absences – the fact that Cherry’s contributions are so infrequent – become more important that the idea of completion; see here in particular ‘Descending Moonshine Dervishes,’ which invites us to make connections with Riley’s great album Persian Surgery Dervishes from 1971 (and then later was used by Riley for the title of a 1982 record)

Here is Chad DePasquale’s take on the Köln concert, published at the Listen to This website: 

In 1975, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley and jazz trumpet cosmonaut Don Cherry joined forces for a magnetic performance in Köln, Germany. Recorded live, but never commercially released, the concert is something of a hushed treasure, as well as the only record of a profound spiritual experience and meeting of two free form jazz titans. Riley’s swirling synth, droning and clairvoyant and prescient in its clarity, parades along with a triumphant Cherry, leaving behind trails of mystery and a sense of beauty in a larger, more universal form. Side A, the twenty-minute “Descending Moonshine Dervishes,” is a transcendent moment of improvisational experimentation and spiritual jazz. As Cherry’s physical presence slowly liquifies, “the lonesome foghorn blows” into some kind of misty dawn. His mournful trumpet immerses the listener into dense layers of playful percussion and dissonance. When Karl Berger joins the duo on vibraphone for side B, the tone becomes more hypnotic and reedy – a strange mystical noir – with the final three-and-a-half minutes of “Improvisation” exuding a vivid imagination. A lucid and rhythmic front row seat to the startling beauty of minimalist explorations and eloquent fusions of Eastern and Western ideas.

Online reviews of this concert are few and far between but follow the tone above, lush in their description (one strange diversion from the pattern being this odd, gnomic line: ‘The best album by Terry Riley & Don Cherry is Live Köln 1975 which is ranked number 13,072 in the overall greatest album chart with a total rank score of 95.’)

There is something affecting about this music, but its power lies in the way it avoids over-statement, or display (Cherry principally, but also Riley and Berger refuse to please or perform or provide dramatic moments). Perhaps it is this quality that encourages us to seek out and perhaps overuse language - adjectives, but also verbs in unusual forms - in an attempt to express how it connects with something inside us.

Coda: ‘Don Cherry’ -

Director: Jean-Noël Delamare, Nathalie Perrey, Philippe Gras (...) Don Cherry, trumpet, illustrating an André Breton poem in various Paris locations.

Fr: Un homme noir, trompettiste de free-jazz, débarque sur la terre, venu d'un autre monde. Il recherche la vérité de ce monde, mais ne sait quel chemin prendre... Il parcourt plusieurs chemins, abat des monstres, pour enfin découvrir les trois vérités : MUSIQUE, SAGESSE, AMOUR. (Eng: A black man, a free jazz trumpeter, comes to earth from another planet. He searches for the truth of this world, but doesn't know which path to take. He wanders various roads, kills monsters, and finally discovers the three truths: MUSIC, WISDOM, LOVE).