AKA Donald Eugene Cherry
Birthplace: Oklahoma City, OK
Location of death: Alhaurín El Grande, Málaga, Spain
Cause of death: Hepatitis
Race or Ethnicity: Multiracial
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: A founder of free-jazz, pocket trumpeter
Born in Oklahoma City but raised in Los Angeles by music-loving parents, Don Cherry spent his childhood surrounded by the sounds of the swing music of the 30s and 40s. By his early teens he had taken up the trumpet, and by his late teens he was already working as a professional musician in the be-bop field. In the latter half of the 1950s his future as one of the leading names in the jazz avant-garde was set in motion by a chance meeting with saxophonist Ornette Coleman in a record store; before long he was a full-time member of Coleman's quartet, developing a new form of musical expression on the club circuit. With the release of the quartet's first album Something Else!!! in 1958, the free jazz movement was given its first substantial public statement - a development for which, at the time, many in the jazz community were somewhat lacking in appreciation.
By 1960 the Coleman Quartet had released a number of significant free-jazz offerings: The Art of the Improvisers, Change of the Century, and The Shape of Jazz to Come amongst them. During this time Cherry began working with the pocket trumpet, a scaled-down version of the instrument not typically associated with jazz, but through which he established his own distinctive style and timbral quality. His tenure with the group continued until early 1961 (although the two collaborated together again on 1969's Crisis and the full original quartet reunion In All Languages in 1987), after which he continued his explorations with players such as John Coltrane (for 1961's The Avant-Garde), Sonny Rollins (for 1962's On the Outside and Our Man in Jazz) and Albert Ayler (for a trio of albums in 1964). Following a tour of Europe in 1964 Cherry spent a period in Paris, where he assembled an international membership for an ensemble of his own, returning with them to New York in 1965 to launch his output as a bandleader with the recording of Complete Communion.
Towards the end of the 1960s Cherry fell into the orbit of the The Jazz Composers Orchestra, participating in the recording of the Michael Mantler-composed album Communications, as well as associated projects including Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill, and ex-Coleman Quartet bandmate Charlie Haden's first Liberation Music Orchestra effort. An interest in different forms of Asian, African and Middle-Eastern musics became apparent in his work at this time, not only stylistically but also through the use of traditional instruments in some of his pieces. A position as a teacher at Dartmouth College was undertaken in 1970, following which Cherry relocated to Sweden, using the country as a center from which to investigate the cultures that were sources of musical inspiration for him. Genre-defying collaborations ranging between rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and modern composer Krzysztof Penderecki provided additional opportunities to keep his musical life interesting.
Cherry's experimentation in what later came to be referred to as "world music" found a culmination in the creation of the trio Codona with Nana Vasconcelos and Collin Walcott in 1978, which synthesized aspects of Brazilian, Eastern Indian, and a variety of folk styles within an improvisational context. At the same time he began to re-visit his roots with Old and New Dreams, a band consisting of former Ornette Coleman players and largely devoted to peforming Coleman's compositions. Subsequent years saw the ever-exploring musician integrating electronics into his work, collaborating with rock-oriented performers like Ian Dury, Lou Reed and Bongwater as well as creating a second cross-cultural trio Nu. He remained active with both performance and recording into the early 1990s before succumbing to liver failure brought about by Hepatitis in 1995.
Mother: Daisy McKee
Wife: Moqui Cherry
Daughter: Jan Cherry (violinist)
Son: David Ornette Cherry (musician)
Son: Eagle-Eye Cherry (musician)
Son: Christian Cherry
Daughter: Neneh Cherry (step-daughter, musician))
The Ornette Coleman Quartet Cornetist/Flautist (1956-61 and 1987)
The Jazz Composers Orchestra Cornetist (1968 and 1974)
Liberation Music Orchestra Cornetist/Flautist (1969)
Codona Cornetist/Flautist/Vocalist (1978-82)
Old and New Dreams Cornetist/Pianist (1976-1987)
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