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Wednesday, Oct 25 1995
Don Cherry, 1936-1995
Adding to a recent slew of early jazz deaths, Bay Area multi- instrumentalist/composer/bandleader Don Cherry died of hepatitis-related liver failure in Spain last week. He was 58. Born in Oklahoma City and raised in Watts, Cherry was swept up by the West Coast innovations in jazz in the 1950s. Best known for his pocket cornet work and long association with Ornette Coleman, Cherry's talents as a bandleader were consistently underappreciated in the U.S. Not so worldwide: He spent much of the '60s through the '80s in exile, prisming local musics through his iconoclastic sensibility.

On such out-of-print albums as Eternal Now ('73) and Brown Rice ('76), Cherry, who put aside the trumpet in later years in favor of the doussn' gnoui and other extrinsic instruments, pioneered an eclectic fusion evocative of jazz, acid rock, and meditative world and folk musics from West Africa to Scandinavia. He also gave many now-famous foreign musicians an early break. Spending his last half-decade in the Bay Area, he performed with Peter Apfelbaum's Hieroglyphics Ensemble and his good friend DJ Cheb i Sabbah.

"Don never wanted to be placed in a musical ghetto, if I may say that," Sabbah remembers. "He wanted to play with everyone, and his stuff is untouchable. I've always felt that a '90s remix of Brown Rice would be extremely timely."

Memorials are being planned in S.F., L.A., and Stockholm. The Bay Area is studded with other underappreciated masters, from Glenn Spearman to Francis Wong, Lisle Ellis, and Gino Robair. There could be no more eloquent testament to Cherry's memory than continued support of improvised music.

Glass Houses
After six albums in just a few years, Bay Area ether rockers Red House Painters and 4AD are parting ways. "It was an amicable split," says singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek. "We've never been on a long-term contract with them. Ivo Watts-Russell, the owner, had criticism of our new record. It's a departure, more of a rock album. We feel it's time for the band to develop, and they were trying to stifle us. For the first time, 4AD was being adamant about changes. I asked if another label could buy [the record]. I hate to say it, but 4AD likes a band to put out the same record over and over again."

"We felt like our relationship with Mark had run its course," says 4AD publicist Robb Moore, who calls the record in question "Mark solo with the rhythm section from John Hiatt's band." "It had four covers on it, and we felt it needed some major tweaking. Mark dug in his heels, so we decided not to pick up the option." At press time, Kozelek was still talking with other labels.

By D. Strauss, Sia Michel

About The Authors

Sia Michel


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