Don Cherry’s Spiritual Jazz Masterpiece: Brown Rice

Today is Don Cherry‘s birthday. He would have been 79 years old. To celebrate the inimitable jazz explorer’s life, I’m sharing my favorite album of his.

Here’s Brown Rice streaming in full. It’s one of the most warmly engaging releases of the entire free jazz universe and, as such, is a great entry point for those who have yet to experience the furthest reaches of the genre.

While many people not-incorrectly associate free jazz with confrontational, abrasive music, the notion only reveals a sliver of the big picture. It’s an umbrella term that eventually encompassed everything from John Coltrane’s latter experiments in dissonance and noise to the devotional new age purr of his widow, Alice Coltrane, in the late 70s and early 80s. Cherry’s work, at various times, covers the entire spectrum. His Eternal Rhythm was a fiery gauntlet thrown down in the wake of Coltrane’s passing, carving raucous jams into thought sculptures that are still picked apart today. This album, however, floats somewhere in the interstellar in-between.

Right from the opening notes of that space age electric piano, the album goes out of its way to pull the listener into its world. Even when floating off the surface, exploring its own textures in a meandering, introspective passage at the heart of the album, the sound is compulsively engaging.


There’s a definite Eastern tinge to the whole affair, a nod toward the alien-to-American tones that were infiltrating many forward looking jazz releases of the day. It’s used more as texture than anything, lending an otherness to the lightly funky album. Cherry’s pocket trumpet is the star, of course, erupting in crystalline crescendos against both the tightly coiled opening and closing tracks, and the atmospheric soundscapes filling out the middle of the set. The similarity of his tone to peak-era Miles Davis was what initially attracted me to the artist, but here he makes the spacey vanguard all his own. Once you’ve heard this album, you’ll never associate the sound with anyone else.

The album has unfortunately never been properly reissued or remastered for vinyl, but you can pick up the “jazz heritage” CD edition from 1989 for very cheap, like I did. It’s a perfectly adequate mastering and the only way to properly enjoy the album at the moment. I’ve got my eyes to the horizon, though, vigilant for a nice vinyl edition. With a smattering of his work being reissued in the past couple years, it’s a definite possibility.

The Best Music From Fallout

We’re in the final stretch, guys. Fallout 4 will arrive in just three days. The hype train is barreling full steam ahead, and I don’t mind feeling caught up. The last two games in the series are easily the most played in my adult life. Also, have you seen that launch trailer?


The above screenshot is from my last play through of Fallout: New Vegas. My character is a hard-nosed woman named Scotch, who often travels with a flying eyebot and a cowgirl who chugs whiskey. I’ve got 234 hours logged, according to Steam, and I’d be happy to double that if there weren’t so many other great games to play.

I’m avoiding replaying the old games in this final stretch, but not in an effort to cultivate a fresher experience. Instead, I’m trying to finish Witcher 3 in a last-ditch weekend effort. This game is easily the best open world I’ve experienced since the last Fallout game, a universe more rich with storytelling than any game before it. Sure, the world is massive and full of things to do, but it’s the sharp writing and rich sense of narrative that makes this game special. If you’re a literary type who enjoys games, often lamenting their shortcomings in this area, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I mention this game only to show how high the stakes are. Bethesda could release the same old game in a new setting and it would be fun, but 8 years since their last developed Fallout game, the world has changed. A handful of games have shown that even chaotic, open ended structures can yield moments of beauty, insight, and wonder. I remember how wrapped up I got with Fallout 3 and New Vegas and think, they’re going to nail this. I have high hopes that the sequel to the only other open world I’ve been totally drawn into will deliver on the storytelling front.

Because I was ridiculous and ordered that Pip-Boy edition, I’m even looking forward to wearing an actual, no-shit Pip-Boy on my wrist one single time before probably putting it on display at the office. If any coworkers are reading this, consider it fair warning for your inevitable eye rolling.

I felt like indulging in a bit of nostalgia today, listening to some of my favorite songs from the last two games. I’ve got to seriously credit the former for getting me into Billie Holiday, now one of my favorite vocalists of all time. I always enjoyed hearing her, to be sure, but I never understood the stark beauty of her music until hearing it in that game. Billie’s heartbreaking laments soundtracked my often aimless wandering through a desolate, bombed out wasteland, the most striking juxtaposition of music and visuals I’d ever known in a video game.

The seven following songs are my very favorites from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas:

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Flying Lotus – Between Villains with Earl Sweatshirt, Thundercat, and MF Doom

Here’s a random tune I felt like sharing. It’s one of the sparkling gems unearthed in Flying Lotus‘ completely free collection of odd tracks from 2013, Ideas + Drafts + Loops.

Over a minimalist drum beat sprinkled with glistening harp runs, Flylo (as his rapping alter ego Captain Murphy) trades verses with an up and coming Earl Sweatshirt and the inimitable, eternal MF Doom (as Viktor Vaughn, of course). All the while, Thundercat floats an atmosphere of wordless coos spiked with live wire bass scatting.


It’s a simple, tossed-off creation that feels no less gripping for being a free bonus cut. If you are a Flylo or hiphop fan in general, you owe it to yourself to download the massive and surprisingly cohesive collection of free tunes. Get it here (Mediafire and Sendspace links included). If you’re more into streaming, the whole thing is up on Soundcloud too. Tracks include Shabazz Palaces, The Underachievers, Baths, Niki Randa, and several pieces that will be familiar to players of Grand Theft Auto V.

There’s even a fantastic remix of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead, incorporating a buoyant Thundercat riff and delicate Radiohead sample. It’s definitely better than the original.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

On a weekend in August of 2015, I discovered Maggot Brain. I may have been 44 years late, but I’m just now realizing the depth and power that Funkadelic were capable of.

I’ve been on a funk kick, spurred on by the incredible new Dam-Funk album, and stumbled up on the evocative cover of Maggot Brain, with a woman’s head planted in the dirt, face frozen mid-scream.


It’s deeply unnerving, an iconic image that immediately sears into the memory. It fits the music completely.

Listen yourself:

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Dam-Funk’s Triumphant Return

Dam-Funk has finally returned, and he’s taken funk right out of the atmosphere and into the deep reaches of space.

I can’t handle how consistently great the new triple-LP, 90 minute album is. Invite The Light is already one of my favorite pieces of music in years. I just keep repeating it, trying to grasp how it’s possible that one artist combined so many things I love about music into a singular sound. It’s overwhelming in the best way possible.

I want to write more about this once the album arrives next week, but I just had to shout my excitement right now, and hopefully tip some people off to the full album stream going on at NPR right now.

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Stereolab’s Ticker Tape Of The Unconscious

I know I just wrote about Stereolab, but I’m in the middle of a binge. Indulge me?

I just listened to my brand new vinyl edition of their 1997 masterpiece, Dots and Loops. It reminded me that, of all the jazzy sprawl and monastic focus of the album, this dreamy pop song lingered in my mind the clearest.

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Stereolab’s Epic Kraut Jam, Jenny Ondioline

I’ve been really feeling Stereolab lately. Their incredibly unique mixture of old fashioned jazzy pop, electronics, and the motorik pulse of krautrock was the reason they were one of the first bands to ever be called post-rock.

If you’ve never heard them, you’re in for a real treat. This is the 18 minute epic centerpiece of their second album, 1993’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements.

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