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Tom Varner: Second Communion

French horn virtuoso Tom Varner is not the first to pay homage by interpreting Don Cherry’s break-out recording, Complete Communion: the DKV Trio’s blistering reading fills the first of the 2-CD Live in Wels and Chicago, 1998 (Okkadisk). Varner’s version features a close affinity with the rhythmic buoyancy of the original, and uses it as the linchpin of his takes on other Cherry-penned minor classics like “Cherryco” and “Elephantsy.” The remainder of Second Communion is comprised of Cherry-related Varner originals, spanning “Watts ’56,” which has a sly sense of swing emanating from its Lacylike construction, and the elegiac “Leaving Malaga,” which features strong horn-trio writing for Varner, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and guest cornetist Dave Ballou, and a strong solo by bassist Cameron Brown.

Rounded out by drummer Matt Wilson, Varner’s quartet invites comparisons with Cherry’s on Complete Communion, and more than acquits itself. With the occasional contributions of Ballou and guitarist Pete McCann, there is more than sufficient variety in the ensemble sound. Most importantly, Varner exercises leadership throughout the album that is both incisive and generous, proving he learned a lot from Don Cherry.

Originally Published