Below are the liner notes for this year’s Record Store Day release, entitled Cherry Jam. Cherry Jam consists of four tracks featuring the iconic American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, recorded for Danish radio with a local band in 1965.
We owe a great debt to Don Cherry, whose radical approach to playing and improvising influenced music as we know it to an incalculable extent. Whilst a somewhat removed figure within the annals of jazz history, Cherry’s impact is clear. In the same decade as this particular recording, ‘Cherry Red’, he would partner with such giants of the saxophone as Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. Most celebrated of all was his participation in Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary first quartet, which, as the album title promised, showed “the shape of jazz to come.”
Despite being a jazz man at heart, Cherry was often dubbed a “musical Marco Polo” for his restlessly nomadic lifestyle. From the late ‘60s onwards, the great trumpeter and musical innovator travelled the world far and wide, from Turkey to Morocco to Japan, seeking multicultural, open musical exploration. A pioneer of what is now known as “world music”, his musical associates included South Africans-in-exile Johnny Dyani, Dudu Pukwana, and Abdullah Ibrahim, Panamanian-born reedist Carlos Ward, Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, and even the Chilean-French filmmaker Alexander Jodorowsky of El Topo fame.
‘Cherry Red’ sets the scene in Copenhagen, a city which proved instrumental in the hosting and development of jazz musicians both local and American. Cherry had performed and recorded there with Archie Shepp in 1963, toured with Albert Ayler in the autumn of 1964, and would go on to have a residency at the hip Cafe Montmartre in 1966.
Our recording is taken from the original tape of a 1965 radio broadcast, programmed by Denmark’s national radio station (Danmarks Radio.) It was in this same year that Cherry would release his landmark Blue Note recording, ‘Complete Communion’, with Leandro ‘Gato’ Barbieri on tenor saxophone, Henry Grimes on double bass, and Edward Blackwell on drums, as well as feature on fellow American expatriate George Russell’s live album ‘George Russell Sextet at Beethoven Hall’. This particular line-up however, consisting of Danish musicians, has never been heard after its original broadcast date, and neither have the three original Don Cherry compositions that are featured on the recording.
Don Cherry and pianist Atli Bjørn had been collaborating regularly on a jam session basis, leading to Danmarks Radio’s decision to record and share these experiments with the Danish public. Tenor saxophonist Mogens Bollerup, bassist Benny Nielsen, and drummer Simon Koppel, all from Copenhagen’s emerging avant-garde jazz scene, would form the rest of the line-up.
The first piece, ‘The Ambassador from Greenland’, reportedly written by Don Cherry in his youth, is characterised by a descending, bluesy bassline. The tune is playful and witty, with Cherry’s soloing alternating between clear riff patterns and more rapid streams of consciousness. The soulful ballad ‘You Took Advantage of Me’ by Richard Rogers comes next, with Cherry playing a Miles Davis-like mute and beginning, unorthodoxly, with the melody from the middle eight. The band slows down to accommodate Bollerup’s rendition of the head, which is almost heart-wrenching, and maintains the same pace and sense of gravitas throughout.
The third track is another original Cherry composition, ‘Priceless’. The melody, doubled by Cherry and Nielsen, mixes together harmonised, boppish patterns with the yearning of ‘Lonely Woman’. Finally, the group takes on a lyrical blues pattern that Cherry worked on with New York clarinettist Alvin Batiste. Titled ‘Nigeria’, the melody is distinctly underscored by Koppel switching between Afro-Cuban and swing rhythms, though the furious soloing from Nielsen, Cherry and Bollerup pulls it into the realm of hard bop.
These four pieces show Don Cherry in the midst of his transformation from pivotal sideman in New York’s avant-garde jazz scene to leader of his own groups and world traveller. His endless curiosity, free-thinking openness to different cultures, and rejection of musical boundaries paved the way for future creators in jazz, world music, and beyond.
ORDER Don Cherry - Cherry Jam on Japanese Edition Vinyl LP HERE