Thursday, May 6, 2021

A fresh look at Moki and Don Cherry’s ‘Organic Music’

In the mid-20th century, a steady stream of American jazz musicians flew the coop to Europe, devouring the restrictions and prejudices of their home country for a continent where it seemed more possible to earn a decent life as an artist. Had been.

For the famous trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Don cherry – who settled in Sweden in the late 1960s after spending years in New York as a key figure in avant-garde jazz – life in Europe offered more than that. It was here that he began sharing an artistic practice with fashion designer and textile artist Moki Carlson (later Moki Cherry), whose career interfered with him. It was a launchpad for others Location, too: Turkey, Morocco and all the countries of the south to highlight their artistic traditions.

Europe was also a place from which Moki and Dawn – given just enough public support, and surrounded by a community of like-minded artists – could lead experiments called “organic music”. For about 10 years starting in the late 1960s, mostly they lived in an abandoned schoolhouse they had bought in the southern Swedish city of Tugrup, the couple taught classes, held concerts, and friends from around the world. And hired and worked colleagues.

Cherry’s collaborative project during these years is the focus of an influential, multilateral celebration Blank form, A Brooklyn arts organization whose small staff spent years peeking through the lives of Moki and Don Cherry, as well as the peculiar varieties of their hitherto famous musician children: Eagle-Eye Cherry And Nene Cherry. (Don Cherry died in 1995 and Moki died in 2009.)

What Blanc Forms has produced – a gallery show devoted mostly to Moki’s artwork, a 500-page book and two archival albums featuring Dawn’s performances from that era – shows how many musicians during this period Were richly alive, often understood as footnotes. For his more well-documented time on the New York scene, but arguably when he did his most developed work. And it evokes the long-overlooked art of Moki Cherry, never quite seen for the specific creator she was. (Her work will be the subject of a separate show in Chicago later this year, in Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery).

The centerpiece of Blanc Forms’ project is the book “Organic Music Societies”, available on Friday, which collects oral and visual histories of the couple’s creatures in Targup, as well as critical writing and glossy photographs of the couple’s milkiness. A series of photographs show the interior of their home, with Moki’s plush, wavy tapestries filling almost every corner, many of them embellished with religious chants.

Some of those tapestries are on display, now through June, in the small gallery of Blanc Forms in central Brooklyn, with paintings and illustrations by both Moki and Don. One of his tapestries hangs almost from floor to ceiling, the words “Organic Music” stitched in an arc on two flailing hands, a heart and a pair of wings.

By the time he composed this piece, Don had begun to transform his musical practice into pedagogy, with a series of master classes for adults, which he began pioneering at ABF House in 1968, a Swedish labor. There was an education center run by the movement, where they were brought. Together folk musicians from around the world and asked them to teach their traditions. Experts in Turkish drumming, Scottish bagpipes and Indian vocal techniques all gave lectures, and the group continued to perform.

In a 1968 interview with author Keith Knox, reprinted in the book “Organic Music Societies”, Don Cherry clarified his intentions. “The first and most important thing is the sensitivity of the sound,” he said, explaining that he told the students to listen to the “ghost’s voice”, or unexpected resonances and rhythms that might pop up in the music making process.

He said, “We find in these studies that we can actually evolve as opposed to our inner manifestation, which is what we have been taught, to achieve our inner manifestation, as the Western system Does not happen.”

In his introduction to the book, Lawrence Kampf, Blanc Forms’ artistic director, writes that Moki and Don Cherry’s projects together pulled Don’s music out of the exploitative and commercially driven jazz circuit and integrated it into the Total Arts and Life project He did away with it. the seminar. “

Although Don Cherry claims to have hated politics, there is an element of radicalism here – what he is rejecting, as much as he is doing. Cherie’s granddaughter, Naima Carlson, who worked with Kumpf to collect books and exhibitions, said that Moki and Dawn took an activism stance through the lens of religion, much as John and Alice Coltrane did, and people By gathering together. “In Buddhism, you can make a huge change by helping other people – by making changes in other people’s lives,” she said in an interview. “They really thought that in their creative and artistic lives, through their artistic collaboration, they could elevate people to another level.”

Don Cherry is not usually remembered. Born in Oklahoma as a black father and a Choctaw mother, Cherry became famous as a member of the Free-Improving Ornate Coleman Quartet, which overturned New York City in 1959. “Jazz of the Shape to Come” And 10 weeks after that went on to Five Spot Cafe. For Coleman, Cherry was part foil and part fraternal twin: a group of harmonically brainwashed improvisers in a group that had overtaken cord structures, with Trumpeter quickly alternating between phrases and long, patient vocals. Worked out of turn. A boy less conspicuous than Coleman, his playing – on a tin-sounding pocket trumpet, Cherry’s signature – was as playful.

You can draw a line in one direction for “Cherry Jam” from that work. An EP An unseen 1965 radio broadcast in Denmark that was released earlier this year on Gearbox Records. It shows him swinging through a set of tunes with a local rhythm section, constantly moving his bandmates in devious surprises, all in the context of mainstream jazz.

But he was also moving through another path. In the mid-1960s in his world – first as a member of the Sunny Rollins group in Europe and then to Turkey and Morocco, where he spent time with the master musicians of Jojuca – Cherie began to understand how much There was liberal artistic language. Working with Coleman can be used to unlock the richness between all types of music. He started playing more percussion and piano, singing more.

The phase was just beginning when they recorded the first of two albums that Blanc Forms would release in June. “The Summer House Sessions” was built on an island outside Stockholm in 1968, when Cherry was the leading class at the ABF facility. The music here is an extension of the sessions, which are a combination of musicians from Sweden, Turkey, France and the United States. With two saxophonists, two bassists and three drummers, the group is actually a combination of different bands that Cherry pioneered in New York and Sweden.

The horn players bring all the trade themes and motifs together in a star blast of high-vesting improvisation, sometimes in choosy, beboppish lines, as if an ornate montage is thrown together on the roof of a fast-moving car .

The second album, “Organic Music Theater”, featured the first performance of Don and Mokie in 1972. A few years ago the pair began presenting interdisciplinary shows using the incorporation of the movement, which featured a diverse cast of tape musicians from Moki, dancers and puppeteers (Moki called Tanpura, a droning Indian string instrument ) Also played. Later in 1972, he would record the “Organic Music Society”, an admirable gem of Don Cherry’s recorded career that would transform global folk music into a unified popular language of its kind.

At “Organic Music Theater”, leading a five-piece band, which also includes Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, Don mixes time signatures and scales from Turkey, South Asia and parts of Africa. When he leads the group in a ballad song (“Butterfly Friend”), it draws him into a chattering chorus of falsetto cries (“Amrit”), impossible to tell which voices are coming onstage and which. Are in the audience from. Everyone, it seems, is singing – and everyone is listening.

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