Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos, Collin Walcott
The Codona Trilogy

By Fernando González

March, 2009

Formed in 1977, Codona, the trio comprising multi-instrumentalist Collin Walcott, trumpeter-cornetist Don Cherry and  percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, foreshadowed the World Music phenomenon that exploded in the 1980s. Looking back at their individual careers to that point (and the fact that their paths purposefully crossed at different times in multiple combinations) Codona suggests the logical culmination of years of exploration: a meeting place for cross cultural conversation and experimentation.

The results, captured in three releases originally titled “Codona 1″ (1979), “Codona 2″ (1981) and “Codona 3″ (1983), have now been all reissued in this box set.

Almost by definition, the work of explorers does not age well. Its value often resides more in the spirit, the philosophy and the processes probed than in the final product - and yet. As it turns out, these recordings sound more remarkable now than in their day. The music in these discs is not just intriguing but engaging, deeply enjoyable - and blessedly comes without any of the and-here-is-me-with-natives cultural tourism approach that has marred so many other cross-cultural musical attempts in pop, jazz and elsewhere.

Part of the music’s success traces to the extraordinary musicianship of the players.  And it’s not just their technical prowess; you can hear them listening to each other and hear their responses unfold logically, organically, no matter how improbable the turn. Part of it is their attitude toward the materials and the ideas at hand, their respect for different traditions without fetishizing, for example.

But just as important is the sense of serious fun running through the music. This is not church, this is not a lab experiment, and this is not a proposal for world peace. It’s music.  Check “Colemanwonder,” which connects Ornette Coleman with Stevie Wonder; or the Steve Reich-like minimalism of “Godumaduma,” actually a traditional African song arranged by Walcott; or the blues-like “Clicky Clacky” featuring Cherry’s vocals and kazoo. The blend of child-like joy, curiosity, intelligence and superior craft in Codona’s music is a find.