Cherry Picking


[untitled 3]
Hamid Drake & Mats Gustafsson
For Don Cherry
OkkaDisk : 1995

HD, percussion; MG, reeds.

On the day Don Cherry died — 19 October 1995 — Drake and Gustafsson took the stage in Chicago and recorded a forty-minute set that is remarkable for its sensitivity and resonance. Though it is unclear whether the duo were aware of Cherry’s passing before taking the stage, there is nevertheless a depth of feeling that it’s all too easy to ascribe to the loss of a musical master. And in Drake’s case, a musical mentor.

Drake and Gustafsson have since gone on to record a number of dates together, principally as members of Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet. But this first recorded meeting retains a significance that goes well beyond the hyper-limited OkkaDisk run of 600-odd CDs.

For those who enjoy the playing here, we can recommend many (more readily available) recordings by these two gentlemen. Drake has made several wonderful discs with bass player William Parker, including one of the great albums of the decade, Sound Unity, and a live set with the David Ware Quartet — one of the Live in the  World CDs. We also dig Gustafsson’s work with fuzzsters The Thing, notably on Garage (Sonics cover!) and Action Jazz (Lightning Bolt cover!). Jason G at Restructures has fortunately been chronicling the careers of both Mats and Hamid; their discographies can be found here and here.

* * *

Oddly enough, we recall where we were the day that Don Cherry died. Thurston Moore announced Cherry’s passing from the stage at a Sonic Youth show and dedicated a magnificently extended version of ‘The Diamond Sea” to him. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as first hearing about JFK’s assassination (not that we’re old enough to know) or even Kurt Cobain’s suicide (not that we’re admitting we got weepy), but it was a touching moment nonetheless.

What jazz deaths have most affected you?

Discussion16 Comments Category Hamid Drake, Mats Gustafsson Tags , , , , , , , , ,

16 Responses to Cherry Picking

  1. Tom Chapin for one as I was just becoming aware of his artistry and was very much looking forward to his ‘next thing(s).’
    Lester Bowie and Julius Hemphill because I a still wondering where they would be taking me now, them having always been so far ahead of the curve they were around the corner and onto another street.

  2. Two in particular: John Coltrane, because he is my favorite musician, any instrument, any genre. He died 2 years before I was even born, but it bothers me that a person that had so much music screaming to get out of him had to die an untimely death.

    The 2nd is Elvin Jones. I had the privilege of seeing the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine in Nov. 2001 in Tampa (see, we do occasionally get good shows here!) at a small theater. After the show I was standing in front of the stage watching his wife Keiko breaking down his drumset. She saw me and asked if she could help me. I said I was hoping to meet Elvin. She said “he’s around backstage, why don’t you just go back there?” I couldn’t believe it. I went ahead and walked down the hallway, eventually coming to the open door of his dressing room. I greeted him and we talked for several minutes. His charm and down-to-earth nature were amazing. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the world in that brief moment, and I left there feeling inspired to be a better human being. So when I read of his passing in 2004, it hit me pretty hard. Great musician, great human being.

  3. for me, it was miles. somehow it barely occurred to me that he could die. i figured all the different chemicals he did must’ve cancelled each other out or imbalmed his insides and made him near immortal. like, say, keith richards. i saw miles perform a few months before his death. he looked good and his playing was exceptional. the band was mostly meh, but his tone was as devastating as ever. even with that lame cyndi lauper shit he could shred your insides.

  4. 1. Don Pullen; 2. Steve Lacy; 3. Johnny Dyani

  5. 1. Walt Dickerson. It killed me that he never reemerged. I really hoped we’d see him record and/or perform again.

    2. Andrew Hill. Towards the end, his music just kept getting more and more magical.

    3. Booker Little. He died way before I was born, of course, but it’s still so sad. The young man was really headed somewhere.

  6. Carmen McRae is the one that comes to mind immediately, the one about which I can say I’ll never forget where I was when I heard of it. It was announced from the stage of the Drew University Jazz Festival. Carmen Bradford (Bobby’s daughter) and Ernie Andrews sang amazing sets with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra that night..the program also included Joe Henderson with Bobby Hutcherson and Billie Higgins, as I recall, but the singers owned the night. Too many others: Miles, Dizzy, etc…Horace Tapscott, John Carter…

  7. most recently, it was jimmy giuffre. i think i was even listening to some of his records the same day he died (a few days before it was announced). surprised that d:o didn’t do a post in memoriam

  8. sonny sharrock. i bought my first sharrock albums (“Guitar” and Last Exit’s “Köln”) the week before he died and when i read the obit in the newspaper, they had been playing for seven days straight, he’d become a hero in that week. still is, fifteen years later

  9. Dewey Redman: What a great and sadly underrated musician. One of the warmest Tenor-Sounds ever. His recordings with Ornette, Jarrett, Redman (Duo in Willisau), Old & New Dreams etc. are timeless and full of surprises. I saw him several times here in Switzerland where he played quite often with the band of guitar-wizzard Harald Haerter … He was an original, a real heart-to-heart-musician, a true improviser (THE REAL DEAL) … & one of the greatest balladeers since Lester Young … I just discovered Anthony Cox’ DARK METALS with Dewey Redman, Mike Cain and Billy Higgins: one of the gems of the 90s (as far as I know Redman and Higgins didn’t play that much togehter – or am I wrong???)

  10. I don’t like when people die. It seems unfair. It was bizarre when René Thomas left, strange when Mingus died, sad when Don Cherry passed away and cruel when Jean-François Jenny-Clarke couldn’t fight his illness anymore. Who thought Elvin Jones could ever die ? That was hard to see John Gilmore going. And I hope Beb Guérin will be remembered for who he was, an intelligent and challenging musician and pesron.

  11. Definitely Steve Lacy for me. Aside from his being one of my favorite improvisers, I had spoken to him once at a show and asked whether he taught privately–he suggested working through his book and getting in touch with him when I was finished to talk about “the next step.” I wonder what that would’ve been…

  12. Definitely Steve Lacy as well. I passed on seeing him the last time he came through Montreal. Didn’t have very much. Eat or jazz? I chose eat. I’ll never forgive my stomach for that one.

  13. Of recent times; Andrew Hill, Alice Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Rashied Ali, Jimmy Giuffre.

  14. Glenn Spearman. His emotional cry was the unapproachable target sound when I first dreamed of playing free jazz. You could hear him playing though his malady on his last few recordings. His passing was another testimony to the fact that life is short and art is long. Then Raphe Malik, who Glenn made some great albums with, died too, and I dug out ’21st Century Texts’ to remember where I’d first heard them together.

  15. mal waldron. one of the most distinctive voices in the music. the way he worried over all his phrases and broke them down into gradual change through repetition was profound. mal waldron was like existence: fleeting, always changing but always the same.

  16. I would have to say I was most affected by Don Pullen, who really seemed to have found an audience.Also Fred Hopkins and Lester Bowie who both had so much charisma and spirit. I miss those guys a lot.

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