In the late 1980s, the members of the first Ornette Coleman quartet—including Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins—were busy remembering their early years in Los Angeles. Haden’s California-themed Quartet West, with Higgins, was recorded in 1986, Coleman’s reunion project In All Languages in 1987, and Cherry’s Art Deco, with Haden, Higgins, and lesser-known confrère James Clay, in 1988.
Producer John Snyder had a special affinity for Coleman and his circle, overseeing some of their key albums from the ’70s, including Coleman’s Dancing in Your Head, Haden’s The Golden Number, and James Blood Ulmer’s Tales of Captain Black. Art Deco was Snyder’s first date for A&M’s Modern Masters Jazz Series. He was especially pleased by the decorative title composition—“That was the album!” he told me—and sent a tape of it to his boss. All the A&M suits liked it, and Snyder credits this song with creating a smooth runway for his next Modern Masters projects with Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and Art Blakey.