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Ed Cherry: Soul Tree

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Although he’s barely into his 60s, guitarist Ed Cherry has long been an old soul, keenly calibrated to the virtues of restraint. He played with Dizzy Gillespie (in ensembles from quartet to big band) for 14 years, and with leaders as disparate as Henry Threadgill and folksinger Tim Hardin. But he has a special affinity for organists. He played on three records with John Patton, delivered a tribute album to Jimmy Smith, The Spirits Speak, in 2001, and has now deployed different trios with organ and drums on his pair of discs for Posi-Tone. Soul Tree features organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Anwar Marshall.

The meat of the record involves a handful of emotionally evocative tracks by seasoned bop composers, tunes that are firmly in the canon but not quite standards. Cherry nails the subtle sway of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes,” marinates sophisticated blues-funk in a manner reminiscent of Cornell Dupree on Jimmy Heath’s “A New Blue,” puts a wistful, gilded, Grant Green-like vibe into Harold Land’s “Ode to Angela” and combs the musical grounds of John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” more thoroughly than any other cut.

Some other tunes opt for more splash and less subtlety. The disc opens with “Let the Music Take Your Mind,” a high school flashback for Cherry in that it was a radio hit for Kool & the Gang in 1969 and covered a year later by Grant Green (clearly a formative influence), abetted by organist Ronnie Foster. Cherry’s own “Little Girl Big Girl” contains a delightful contrast between the guitarist’s bone-dry twang and Koehler’s stadium-friendly organ swirls. And Cherry, the consummate pro who constantly impresses the listener with the way he hones the rhythm in support of Koehler, finally cops to some sentimental indulgence on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.”

Originally Published