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Don Cherry: Organic Music Society

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On Ornette Coleman’s early sides as a leader, his trumpeter and principal cohort, Don Cherry, allowed experimentalism to air itself out while keeping a leg knee-deep in blues and bebop phrasing. Cherry always seemed more comfortable than Coleman with explicitly acknowledging his points of reference, and this stayed true even when those touchstones evolved to encompass traditions, both musical and spiritual, from around the globe.

Cherry recorded a quartet record of mostly Coleman’s compositions alongside John Coltrane in 1960, and later released a triptych of albums for Blue Note Records, essentially new ventures within the Coleman school of improvisation. But by the end of the 1960s, he’d thoroughly emerged from Coleman’s shadow, and it became easier to make some sense of their differences. 1968’s Eternal Rhythm-a two-part suite involving a small orchestra of improvisers and pointed, colorful use of the gamelan-let us know that Cherry wanted to say something truly of his own.

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