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Wed, 11.18.1936

Don Cherry, innovative jazz artist with no limits

Don Cherry

This date marks the birth of Don Cherry in 1936. He was an African American musician.

Donald Eugene Cherry was born in Oklahoma City, and raised in Los Angeles. He started on trumpet in junior high school and began working with Ornette Coleman in 1956. The Coleman quartet moved to New York City in 1959, creating controversy and making revolutionary albums for Atlantic until it disbanded in late 1961. Shortly thereafter, Cherry worked with a wide array of musicians in this country and Europe: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Steve Lacy, George Russell, and Albert Ayler.

Cherry formed the New York Contemporary 5, his own combo, New and Old Dreams, and Codona. Equally adept in the creative spheres of freer jazz forms and world music situations, Don Cherry played the cornet, pocket trumpet, keyboards, wood flutes, and doussn'gouni, melodica.

He and Ornette Coleman were both groundbreaking musical artists of the late 1950s and early '60s with their combo. Cherry also played and recorded with most of the major forward-looking voices in jazz.

After leaving Coleman, Cherry continued to play a sparse jazz often in small groups and duets (many with ex-Coleman drummer Ed Blackwell) during a long sojourn in Scandinavia and other locations.

He would later appear on Coleman's 1971 LP Science Fiction, and from 1976 to 1987 would reunite with Coleman alumni Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Blackwell in the band Old And New Dreams where his "subtlety of rhythmic expansion and contraction" was noted. During the 1980s, he recorded again with the original Ornette "El Corazon," a duet album with Ed Blackwell.

From the late 1960s until his death Oct. 19, 1995, Cherry lived a nomadic existence throughout the world, mixing jazz and world musicIn addition to bebop, Cherry incorporated influences of Middle Eastern, traditional African, and Indian music into his playing.

Don Cherry was only 58 when he died in Málaga, Spain, in 1995 due to liver failure caused by hepatitis.

Reference:
A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York
Copyright 1997
ISBN 0-306-80778-5

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