End of a Century, cont’d

End of a Century
When our son David Ornette Cherry was born to Don and I in 1958, he along with his sister Jan Elisia Cherry and Denardo Coleman ate, slept and toddled through the historic Los Angeles Mariposa Street rehearsals and “woodshedding” of the original Ornette Coleman quintet of Ornette, alto sax; David’s father, Don Cherry, pocket trumpet; Walter Norris, piano; Don Payne, bass; and Billy Higgins, drums (Something Else! Contemporary Records (S7551).

In 1958 and 1959, the Mariposa address was a mecca and literal home for the curious and for creators and producers of contemporary music who came to listen and “sit in” or just question the process of collective improvisation.  Some of these open-minded and curious contributors and supporters of the music were bassists Charlie Haden, Percy Heath, Red Mitchell, and Scott LaFaro; drummers Lawrence Marable, Frank Butler, and Shelley Mann; pianists Elmo and Bertha Hope, John Lewis, and Horace Tabscott; and Atlantic Records Nesuhi Ertegun among others.

David was there growing up with some of the most prominent names in contemporary jazz!  He was there when Coleman, Cherry, Haden and Higgins made their opening New York City debut at the Five Spot Café in late 1959. He was there when we shared a loft on Bleeker Street with Steve Lacy, soprano saxophonist, and where music ran rampant. He was there for the John Coltrane rehearsals which produced his father¹s first solo album, The Avant-Garde (Atlantic1451). So, it seems by osmosis that he absorbed the music which eventually emerged as his primary love and he began to shed the basketball courts, marching bands and things that teenagers do when growing up in South Central Los Angeles, better known as Watts, California.

During the years of his musical development, David attended Bishop College in Dallas, Texas for several years concentrating on music theory and playing with blues bands in nearby towns.

He then enrolled in California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California where he and fellow musician John L Price produced its first multi-media festival which emphasized African American music. Both were responsible and spearheaded the inclusion of jazz as a standard part of the Institute’s curriculum. He was a part of the Creative Music Summer Studio in Woodstock, New York where he studied with his father and other renowned world musicians.

David lived with Don in Sweden and began to learn keyboards and in New York he began to take interest in the flute and melodica. He worked and toured with Don’s Codona group, his Magic Show at Antibes and other European venues, at the Watts Tower Summer Festival and the World Music Festival in Washington, DC.

His father — who Ornette admittedly states in liner notes on the album,This is Our Music (Atlantic SD-1353) that Don “knows more of my compositions than I can remember” — was prolific in his teachings of Ornette¹s tunes to David, two of which appear for the first time on this CD.  What David brings to the listening audience from this wealth of experience are his ideas, early influences and experimentations with electronic music. His compositions are a musical fusion of cultures laid firmly down on a foundation of purely garage-style rhythms heavily layered with the beats, syncopations and musical dialogues of world music in all of its diversity. Simply, as David aptly states, “The music that I compose is an extension of what I learned from my dad — a fusion of organic, harmolodic, multi-cultural and urban garagestyle beats. So in defining the music, it’s a fusion of textures, sounds, lifestyles,surroundings, and messages in a universal language emphasizing a positive state of mind.”

“Impressions of Energy” is the name of the superb ensemble of great musicians delivering the energetic and forceful collective sounds.

As for the CD offerings, David’s composition Distant Glance takes you on a peaceful, hypnotic journey punctuated by colorful forays of restful and melodious trombone, saxophone and flute intervals and rhythm patterns.

The Memory of Things is an Ornette Coleman composition long forgotten by him but well-remembered by Don who taught it to David many years ago. In granting permission to use the composition, Ornette also named it. The Memory is a poignant melodica and bass duo featuring David and Roberto Miranda. It is oddly reminiscent of years gone past marred by the struggles and deaths of so many who stood the ground for musical diversity and acceptance.

Rainy Heart was composed by David to pay homage to his dad. He wanted the bottom-line rhythm, groove and pulse to imitate the Malian instrument known as the doussn’ gouni which also features a trumpet solo by Bobby Bradford. David loves his musical interaction with Bradford but also appreciates the many ways in which Bobby provides a living connection and legacy between the past and present of his home-town South Central/Watts culture and the brilliant musicians who hailed from there.

Escape to Jazziland is a piece formulated by David to express movement or journey through the world fusing different cultural sounds, textures and colors. “There should be no guidelines to our capabilities to create and extend the music. I wanted this tune to be an extension of what happened to our ancestors. Cut off from our original culture and lack of knowledge about the tribe or exact African country we are from provides African Americans with the unique opportunity of being a universal voice. For these reasons, I am compelled to draw from all sources and present a universality in my compositions,” David emphatically states.

The End of a Century is a collaborative musical, spoken word and rap composition by David, a young writer, Sekou Byrd and his niece, Amber Hopson. It¹s a factual statement…it’s a political point of view from an African American perspective or for that matter from the perspective of all ethnic peoples who have been forcibly removed from their roots. It speaks of how things change but also remain the same as we sit fragilely poised for the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st .

David is adamant that things seen and experienced in our surroundings and environments must be honestly expressed through the creative voices of artists by the content of music, dance, the written word, painting, drawing, sculpting, graphics, and film.

From Top to Bottom is the second Ornette Coleman composition on this recording. David was immediately inspired when he first heard Coleman¹s group Prime Time primarily because they collectively stayed in theme and thought with eloquent and free elaborations on the theme. “They milk and groove the melody out without giving up freedom of expression,” but “when you have a great foundation like a Coleman melody, the possibilities of expression are infinite,” he says. David is ever exploring the harmolodic system devised by Ornette which reveals a different realm of and level of creativity. From Top to Bottom is a tribute to the essence of Prime Time.

Sing to My Heart is composed by David with words written by Barbara McCullough and Howard Starks one of the vocalists along with David¹s sister Jan.  He hopes this arrangement is spiritually motivating and empowering for those who listen and look for personal meanings.  Of course, it can mean different things to different people. It can be about a relationship with the Creator, between two people, between a person and his or her art, work or at best, the simple things in life.

Moroccan Garage is a street scene and marketplace of sound and activity. David wanted this composition to have a collective groove reflective, again, of a fusion of cultures. When explaining this piece, he relates to Los Angeles — the car capital of the world where possessing a car is just as important as possessing a garage to park it in.  But it was usually the garage that doubled as the rehearsal studio for most musicians. You can¹t see them but can  only hear the incredible sounds emanating from the garage and sounding like its coming from everywhere.  David choose a Moroccan marketplace to drive home this concept which includes sintir and vocals of Hassan Hakmoun.

Folayan, a Nigerian/Yoruba name which means “to walk in dignity,” was written by David for yours truly his mother. Upon hearing this composition for the first time, I was extremely touched by David’s musical perception of me. It is quite a gratifying feeling. Quite simply, he is saying “when you meet and talk to people, be sensitive to what they are saying but do not compromise your dignity; hold your head up and be proud of who you are.”

Return to Codonia is David’s composition and tribute to his father. When he traveled with Codona in Europe, Don, Nana Vasconcelos, and Colin Walcott would say that they were going to Codonia. When the band hit the stage it was magical. It took the audience to many places and brought them back safely. David says, “It is one of the most incredible things I¹ve ever experienced.” This piece is in remembrance of his travels with his father who died in October 1995 but who is still with us through his children, family, friends, fellow musicians, and his vast musical contribution to the world. And, David along with Don¹s other children intend to carry on their rich musical inheritance.

Impressions of Energy
David Ornette Cherry, keyboards, melodica, spoken word — expressive and colorful
Roberto Miguel Miranda, bass –masterful and melodic
Bobby Bradford, cornet –brilliant musician and griot of the music
Ralph “Buzzy” Jones, reeds and piano –a creative force
Hassan Hakmoun, sintir and vocals –inspiring (only on Moroccan Garage)
Phil Ranelin, trombone –dynamic and finds the spaces
Ray Yslas, percussion harmonic
Ollie Elder, Jr., electronic bass –powerful
Jan Cherry, violin, vocals –elegant and simplistic
Blair Sherill, drummer –swings
John L. Price, percussion –tasteful
Amber Hopson, rap/spoken word –innovative groves
Dwight Carroll, guitar –naturally rhythmic
Howard Starks, vocals –smooth

– Carletta “Folayan” Hewitt-Cherry
February 28, 1999