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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Wide Open Jazz and Beyond

Don Cherry

By Published: May 30, 2006

In the mid 70's Cherry teamed up with his former Ornette band members Charlie Haden on bass, Ed Blackwell on drums and superb tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman (also played with Ornette very often) to form a fantastic band called "Old and New Dreams". They recorded a couple of great records for ECM playing compostions of Ornette as well as of Cherry and Haden. In the late 70's Don began a fruitful association with Colin Walcott who was also involved in the ethnic musics of the world. Colin played sitar, tabla and percussion with the group Oregon. Together Walcott and Cherry created a near perfect album called Grazing Dreams for ECM which perfectly fused elements of ethnic music with the harmonies and structural sense of jazz. After this recording they formed a trio together with Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos that they called Codona and recorded three more brilliant records for ECM.

In 1982 Cherry received a National Endowment grant to work in Watts, California to introduce children in the schools to the music of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. Don Cherry continued playing and teaching his organic world and jazz music until he died in 1995.

Let me finish this brief history of this remarkable man with a quote from Cherry himself, "In the West we are given an instrument, we are taught to play the notes and this is considered music. I grew up that way. In other cultures, where you start by making your own instrument yourself and you make your own music, from what is around you, things are different... we are still a long way from this... nowadays, we can come from anywhere in the world and we can get to know each other through our melodies and our songs; we feel the musical link which unites us all. Music is a uniting force for all of us..."

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