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Artist Profiles

Carlos Ward: A Tough and Lyrical Journey

By Published: September 22, 2007
In 1973, he began playing with Cherry again, including a memorable Jazz Composers' Orchestra recording, Relativity Suite ("Desireless" was written for him). He also worked more regularly with Ibrahim during this time, a diverse recorded relationship that lasted until 1986, when Ward joined Cherry's group Nu with Mark Helias, Ed Blackwell and Nana Vasconcelos. "Don used to come by my house and hear what I was working on. He'd say 'yeah, let's do this—we can do this.' It was happening, and we had a big tour in Europe where that BBC record was made [Don Cherry, BBC, 1986, including Ward's composition "Lito."]. I was really sort of angry when that Multi-Kulti band came around, because they had recorded and we never got to, even though we'd been together for a long time."

Fundamentally, the association with Cherry was one of Ward's biggest assets: "Don would try to help me—he'd try to get other people who were working with him interested in doing something with me. I remember one time when he took me to Atlantic Records to meet Nesuhi Ertegun, and Don gave him some of my music to see if he liked it." The late 1980s were an artistically fruitful time for Ward, as in addition to working with luminaries like Cherry and replacing the departed Jimmy Lyons in Cecil Taylor's Unit, he finally recorded as a leader—1988's excellent Lito, with Woody Shaw (Leo Records).

In working with some of improvisation's greatest synthesizers, Ward has been afforded unique playing situations, even if working conditions and recordings have been somewhat erratic. Despite taking the last few years off due to an injured playing hand, Ward has been readying himself for a return to the scene. Hopefully the near future will hold opportunities to bestow his musical knowledge on another generation of musicians, gleaned from a tough but lyrical lifetime.

Recommended Listening:

Carlos Ward—Set for Two Don's (Puell, 1998)

Carlos Ward—Lito (Leo, 1988)

Cecil Taylor—Live in Bologna (Leo, 1987)

Don Cherry—Don Cherry (BBC, 1986/2002)

Abdullah Ibrahim and Carlos Ward—Live at Sweet Basil (Ekapa, 1983)

BT Express—Do It (Til You're Satisfied) (Unidisc, 1975)

Dollar Brand—African Space Program (Enja, 1973)

Don Cherry/Carlos Ward/Dollar Brand—Third World Underground (Trio/Nadja, 1972)

Rashied Ali—New Directions in Modern Music (Survival, 1972)

Karl Berger—Tune In (Milestone, 1969)

Karl Berger—From Now On (ESP, 1966)

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