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Rock & Roll & Free Jazz

Inside Lou Reed and Don Cherry’s avant-fusion

Aidan Levy's "Dirty Blvd." Lou Reed book
Lou Reed's "The Bells" album
Don Cherry 1976
Lou Reed

In November 1976, Lou Reed flew to Los Angeles to headline the Roxy and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. At LAX, tenor saxophonist Marty Fogel happened to spot pocket trumpeter Don Cherry, the Los Angeles native known for his work with Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. Cherry had just recorded his first album with Old and New Dreams, a quartet of Coleman collaborators consisting of Cherry, saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ed Blackwell. Cherry was one of Reed’s idols. They possessed certain commonalities, including an explosive improvisatory energy and a brush with hepatitis. And fortunately for Reed, Fogel already knew Cherry.

Fogel rented a basement practice space on Sixth Street in the Village, next door to Cherry’s wife Moki’s textile studio, though the Cherrys’ principal residence was in Stockholm, where they were raising their son, Eagle-Eye. “I’d see Don all the time, and we would say hello. But then one day in 1976, we had just arrived at the Los Angeles airport, just kinda hanging out, waiting for a limousine. And I’m standing by this phone on the wall, and Don Cherry comes walking up to where the phone is. We said hello and started talking, and then he left,” Fogel says. “Then we were getting ready to go, and I said to Lou, ‘Man, I just ran into Don Cherry out there!’ He says, ‘Go get him! Go get him! I love him!'” Reed invited him to play with the band, and the chance meeting led to an intermittent working relationship with the free-jazz luminary for the next several years.

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