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Their definitive debut. Walcot adds dulcimer and sanza, Nana Berimbau and cuica, Cherry on ethnic flutes. Side two is solid with Walcott's chant-like "Mumakata" and "New Light". Side one has an Ornette Coleman/Stevie Wonder medley. These three communicate. This is an unmatched piece of music. These artists worked and played, each bringing out qualities in the others and produced an experience both personal and profound. I listen to it a work, at home, travelling and never tire of it.
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The sound is not quite as revolutionary as I expected from reviewers who claimed that this group invented world music. Pharoah Sanders in the late 1960s and Edward Vesala in the early 1970s had already explored free jazz with inspiration from non-Western traditions, and Codona is roughly comparable to that genre. However, the sound is more meditative and uncrowded. As Cherry noted in interviews, silence is a big part of the sound they were exploring. There's some allusions to shamanistic rituals here with the growling, multitracked vocals on the first track.
It's an often low-key affair considering the enormous forces on stage and the fact that multitracking was thought an option. Cherry and Walcott go beyond what they are usually known for: in addition to his famed trumpet, Cherry plays, doussn'gouni, various flutes, organ and melodica, while Walcott, besides sitar and tabla, plays hammered dulcimer, sanza and timpani.
I picked up CODONA after being completely bowled over by Collin Walcott's Cloud Dance album and David Darling's Cycles on which Walcott is a prominent guest. I found Codona less readily accessible than those masterpieces of heartbreakingly melodic jazz, and this album is something I have to be in a particular mood for. Still, when I am in that mood, there's plenty of wonder here, and while ECM is known for its "ambient" sound, the sense of studio space and the purity of every individual note here transcends that label's already high standards. The way two Ornette Coleman tunes and one by Stevie Wonder, of all people, are transformed into some kind of non-Western song (track 3 "Colemanwonder: Race Face/Sortie/Sir Duke") is remarkable. So, think of my rating as 4.5 stars.
(Verified purchase as part of the Codona Trilogy box set)