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All That Jazz

A Father Lays the Groundwork for the Son to Hit the Keys

July 23, 1999|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's a burden of responsibility for a musician to bear a name like David Ornette Cherry. His father was pocket trumpeter and seminal world fusion artist Don Cherry, and his middle name traces to Ornette Coleman--his father's partner in one of the '60s' most revolutionary jazz ensembles.

But Cherry, a keyboardist who performs tonight and Saturday with his group, Impressions of Energy, at the Jazz Bakery, doesn't see it as a problem.

"I accept where I came from," he says. "I have no problem with that because I feel blessed to have that lineage. And there are others who are having the same experience--Ravi Coltrane, Joshua Redman."

At this point in his career, Cherry (who was born in 1958, the year "Something Else," the first album by the Coleman quintet, was released) still views his music as an expansion of the territory explored by his father.

"I see it as a combination," he says, "of Ornette's harmolodic world music with the Multi-Kulti, Organic Music thing that my father was doing."

"Multi-Kulti," the title of a Don Cherry album and group, refers, according to David Cherry, to a coming together of sounds and influences from various parts of the world, underpinned with the rhythms of jazz.

"Impressions of Energy," he notes, "brings in people from all over--we have a sax player from Mexico, a Turkish musician on drums, Roberto Miguel Miranda on bass."

Cherry performed with his father's bands in the '80s and '90s, an experience he views as primal to his growth as an artist and a musician.

"I went through years of sitting next to him on the piano," he recalls. "And he would come to the piano and play, and then I would have to pick up where he left off when he got up. And that's the way I learned--spontaneously, on stage.

"Other times, we used to walk through New York City, and we both had flutes, and he'd teach me these tunes as we'd walk around town. Then a couple of days later, we'd do a gig, and he'd play on flute what we did on the street and expect me to react on the keyboard."

Cherry realizes that he will eventually move beyond the orbit of his father's music, and views himself as a member of an emerging generation of innovative Los Angeles-based jazz artists. But he is determined to hold on to the essential creative beliefs that were passed on to him.

"My father believed, and I believe, that once you have music and you love it, it doesn't matter if you play for one person, for many people or for yourself, you're still experiencing love," he says. "And that's the most beautiful thing in life, a way of knowing that you're in contact with a higher power."

* David Ornette Cherry and Impressions of Energy at the Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City. (310) 271-9039. $15 admission tonight and Saturday at 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Listening Post: What are they listening to? Russ Freeman, who performs tonight with his group, the Rippingtons, at the Universal Amphitheatre, has been checking out a far-ranging collection:

* Jim Hall and Pat Metheny. "Jim Hall & Pat Metheny" (Telarc). "I love Pat's playing. I listen to everything he does."

* Bob Marley. "The Complete Bob Marley and the Wailers" (Jad / Koch). "Marley's one of my favorites and a big influence on the reggae tracks that I've done for the Rippingtons."

* Dave Matthews. "Live at Luther College" (BMG/RCA). "Dave always has something nice to say."

* Andrea Bocelli. "Sogno" (Philips). "I discovered Bocelli on my honeymoon in Italy, and I've been listening to him ever since."

* The Dixie Chicks. "Wide Open Spaces" (Sony / Monument) "Just got it, but it's a group I like a lot."

Music Ed: Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music kicks off its 10th annual "Berklee in L.A." program next week at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont. More than 250 students from 17 states, Greece, Japan, New Zealand and Italy--most between the ages of 15 and 21--will be in residence for a week of music instruction, seminars and performances. Students choose among guitar sessions, instrumental workshops, vocal jazz and Latin jazz. In addition to a large contingent of Berklee faculty, there will be a number of participating artists, including saxophonist Eric Marienthal, percussionist Alex Acuna, guitarist Carl Verheyen (from Supertramp), flutist Danilo Lozano, trumpeter-educator Bobby Rodriguez, and the bass and drum team of Neil Stubenhaus and Vinnie Colaiuta. Info: (909) 607-4078.

In Search of Awards: Billboard magazine and BET on Jazz are reportedly holding exploratory meetings to develop a televised jazz awards show. Preliminary plans call for the event to take place in June 2000 in Washington as part of a jazz conference and trade show. Will it actually happen? Stay tuned. It is one of a number of proposed jazz awards shows obviously intended to fill the vacuum left by the Grammy's diminishing interest in the music. But thus far, no one has delivered any concrete plans.

On Record: Rhino is planning to release a four-CD boxed set, "Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles (1921-1956)," that will serve as a kind of audio companion to the University of California book of the same name. The music that is included offers a distinct alternative to the far more visible West Coast jazz of the '50s.

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