Ed Cherry – The Spirits Speak

The Spirits Speak
Ed Cherry
(Justin Time – 2001)
by John Barrett

In many ways, this is a quiet album: the organ glows, the guitar glides, and the common trait is togetherness more than flamboyance. Having played with Paquito D’Rivera and Dizzy Gillespie, Ed Cherry knows how to work a good groove. He starts with a kiss on “Little Girl, Big Girl”: humble plucked notes, built around Dr. Lonnie Smith’s bass pedals. Gently metallic at first, Cherry moves toward the tone of Grant Green, while using a phrase of Wes Montgomery’s. (Later he plays octaves, to good effect.) A soprano sax yelps, worried and pure; Joe Ford says his phrases carefully, and each leads to a moment more intense.

Ed is more springy on “The Spirits Speak”, snapping the strings over airy chords. The mood remains calm, even if the tone isn’t; the good Doctor seems to whistle in a happy solo. A race ensues on “Top Hat”: Joe flutters up high, and Ed follows after. On the solo, Ford sounds like a dirty clarinet – grainy, fasty, and sassy. Lonnie’s solo goes to the ballpark; Cherry sounds like old-style George Benson, with Montgomery thrown in. When it comes to the ‘Sixties groove, this “Hat” is hard to top.

“Woo!/Sharrock” is a fast mover with a rocker’s tone; it is forceful, if a bit aimless. On “Peace”, the strings vibrate with stillness. Laird Jackson sings the fine lyric evocatively, and Lonnie’s chords grow thick. Ed’s solo, launching hard and quoting “Mona Lisa”, is likely his best. In an album like this, you expect a jam blues: “Joe’s Thing” has Martino-like lines from Cherry, flashy outbursts from the Doctor, and Ford whoops in ecstatic fury. And with steadily rippling notes, Ed stirs a background for Jackson on “Share a Life”. She sings of adventure, the drums rain down, and Ford calls out like a lighthouse. The tunes are good, the players are sympathetic … and the spirits are quite vocal.