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Artist Profiles

The Humus of Don Cherry

By Published: October 20, 2005
Cherry often spoke of the idea of "selflessness" and of being "aboriginal," a concept which percussionist Adam Rudolph, curator of this month's Don Cherry Celebration at the Stone Gallery and a longtime collaborator of Cherry from 1978 until his death in 1995, has taken to heart and mind. Cherry, of course, never stayed in one place completely, spending time principally in Sweden, New York, and California during the last two decades of his life, but musically his practice took him everywhere. Percussionist Bengt Berger, who played with Cherry frequently in Sweden, noted how Cherry's curiosity led him to teach Turkish drummer Okay Temiz and trumpeter Maffay Falay the fundamental principles of Turkish folk music by asking them to teach him their musical culture—Berger: "he kind of put them onto their own folk music by being very interested in that. Then they started a Turkish group [of their own]." Rather than simply learning to play the music of another region or culture by rote was certainly far from Cherry's mind; part of this 'aboriginalness' was an effort to gain a clearer window into oneself and one's own creative possibilities, that one can become more fully attuned to one's artistic personality by incorporating aspects of other musics into the palette. In some ways, it reflects the age-old adage that one has to get as far away from oneself as possible in order to fully understand where one lies creatively and humanistically—an aesthetic walkabout, in other words. Don Cherry's walkabout took him to Brooklyn, Scandinavia, Turkey, Los Angeles, Paris, India and places in-between, but as an artist, it brought him home.

Thanks to Adam Rudolph, Karl Berger, Carlos Ward, Prince Lasha, Ornette Coleman, Bengt Berger, and all the artists interviewed for this project.

Photo Credit
Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos



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