Organic Music Company Blank Forms 06
This very reasonably priced volume highlights a key period in Don Cherry’s life when he spent a lot of time in Sweden (where he was domiciled) as well as numerous trips both within and outside of Europe and in Scandinavia.
Together with Magnus Nygren (who is working on a biography of Cherry), editor-in-chief Lawrence Kumpf provides an introductory overview titled – in Cherry’s own words – “The Revolution Is Inside”. The book examines the various projects on which Don Cherry (1936-1995) and his life partner for many years, the Swedish multimedia artist, designer and musician Moki Cherry (1943-2009), worked together from the middle – in the late 60s until the early and mid 80s. Initially, they called such projects Movement Incorporated, then Organic Music Society and Organic Music Theater.
Richly illustrated, the nearly 500 pages include several substantial interviews with Cherry. There are also thematic essays: Ben Young’s “Suites of Relativity” sheds light on how ideas of fixed forms and extended solos have given way to a culture similar to a collage of a multivalence of inspiration centered on the group and what psychologists call “affect”. A more personal note bends Swedish multi-instrumentalist Christer Bothén’s thoughts on what it was like to work with the itinerant Cherry.
A lot of Organic music companies no. 6 is dedicated to the work of Moki Cherry. Born and baptized Monika Karlsson in the far north of Sweden, she met Don for the first time during one of her first stays in Stockholm: the design student Monika then became the Moqui who created the primitivist figurative painting that serves as a cover for the 1966 Where is brooklyn. As Moki, she would flourish in all kinds of ways, contributing the blanket, tapestries, and posters (as well as clothing) to enhance Don’s various endeavors.
Some of his best-known pieces are the cover painting with the mythical inflections of the Organic music company double LP outlet on Caprice and the South Asian orientation tapestry and quilt for, respectively, eternal now and Relativity Suite. But Moki’s importance to Don ran deeper than any such particular accomplishments.
The purchase of an old school building in Tågarp, in southern Sweden, provided the base from which to develop performances as well as community and educational work (often with children). Moki’s daughter, Neneh, calls Tågarp “the mothership, the seat of our family, the source” and Organic music companies no. 6 ends with a reproduction of the content of Tågarp Publications Number One. Edited by Keith and Rita Knox, this is a broad example of the typical “alternative consciousness” of the era, ending with some thoughts from Don Cherry on his teaching experiences at America’s Dartmouth College.
The bulky paperback has a sewn-in spine, ensuring a long lifespan. But there is no index or discography, it is disappointing for such an ambitious project. And while the research that fueled the book had many sources, there is no mention of Jazz Review, including the various articles Barry McRae wrote about Cherry in the early 1970s and Cherry’s in-depth interview with Martin Isherwood, published in JJ 09/91 and recently made available in the JJ Archives.
The illustrations in Organic music companies no. 6 are all captioned. But a color photo that has Don and Moki in a trio features an “unknown bassist, ca. 1974”. Anyone seriously interested in Cherry should know that it is Norwegian Arild Andersen – who first gained international attention when Cherry featured him on the 1968 Berlin recording which is Eternal rhythm. Arild confirmed to me that it was indeed him in the photo, taken at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 1975.
And speaking of the absent Norwegians, there is no mention of the impact Cherry had on a young Jan Garbarek (and several of his compatriots, including Jon Christensen) when they performed together at the Sogn Jazz Cub in Oslo. in the summer of 1967. As Garbarek made clear – both Horizons touched: the music of ECM and mine Jan Garbarek: deep song – “It was Don who first interested us in our own folk music, who made us realize how much there was to check out in our own backyard. […] He had a huge influence: a great person, and the world’s leading musician, really. Everything about Don was about a global attitude to life.
At one point in the book, Cherry says, “I have a lot of respect for simplicity, where something is so simple that it’s hard – it’s hard to be simple. Compare that with the following in Fumi Okiji’s “Oriki For Don Cherry: To Be Part Of A Gathering Whole”: “We must take seriously the irrevocably folk orientation of black expression. Although this is not excluded, the notion of a hermetic and original work of (mainly) single author – a manifestation of what Adorno calls the “sovereign freedom” of the upper bourgeoisie – is not essential to this epistem. .
Sorry? When I think of Don Cherry, I think of damp ground (soul) and clear, clean air (spirit). When I think of the Frankfurt School Marxist Theodor Adorno, his rejection of jazz and his denial of the “authentic workings” of tonal harmony in a post-Schoenberg world, I think of the aridity of all these judgments. historicizing. But if we have to mention the Frankfurt school over Cherry, why not go for Herbert Marcuse?
Published in 1964 – the year Albert Ayler and Cherry cut Vibrations with Gary Peacock (b) and Sonny Murray (d) – Marcuse’s One-dimensional man: studies on the ideology of advanced industrial society remains as relevant as ever today. And like Organic music companies no. 6 documents so well, is there ever someone more multidimensional in their creative resistance and transcendence to all that so disturbed Marcuse in life today than the indefatigable – and inimitable – Don Cherry ?
Organic Music Company Blank Forms 06. Texts by Lawrence Kumpf & Magnus Nygren, Don Cherry, Keith Knox, Ruba Katrib, Christopher R. Brewster, Naima Karlsson, Moki Cherry, Neneh Cherry, Ben Young, Fumi Okiji, John Esam, Bengt af Klingtberg, Alice Bailey, Iris R. Orton, Sidsel Paaske, Ake Holmquist, George Trolin, Alan Halkyard, Christer Bothén. Published in 2021 by Blank Forms Editions, 496 pp with extensive color and b & w illustrations, £ 16. ISBN 978-1-7337235-8-9