John Coltrane & Don Cherry – The Avant-Garde (1960)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Avant-Garde is an album credited to jazz musicians John Coltrane and Don Cherry that was released in 1966 by Atlantic Records. It features Coltrane playing several compositions by Ornette Coleman accompanied by the members of Coleman’s quartet: Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell. The album was assembled from two unissued recording sessions at Atlantic Studios in New York City in 1960.

Ornette Coleman attended the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959 with Don Cherry as his private instructor. His education was sponsored by Atlantic Records. Coleman had a revolutionary sound that deviated from conventional jazz (apparent by the lack of harmonies). Despite his deviations, Coleman retained the basic key and common time of traditional jazz. In 1953, he met drummer Ed Blackwell, who is featured on the album.

John Coltrane studied with Coleman, and they frequently played together but never made an album together. The Avant-Garde is a result of their mutual respect and friendship. Coltrane, Coleman, and Cherry played together in ensembles as they explored new ways of playing jazz. With this album Coltrane contributed to the formation of free jazz through his “modal school of improvisation”. “The Blessing” is the first time he recorded on soprano saxophone.

“Focus on Sanity” was recorded in Los Angeles, California, on May 2, 1959. “Cherryco” was recorded in 1960 under the title “Untitled Opus #1”. The title was considered a play on words with the name “Cherokee”, though the style of the song has nothing to do with the name. Some of the tapes are missing from the song and “are presumed lost”.

“The Invisible” was performed and recorded for Coleman’s album Something Else!!!! which was released in 1958. According to Claire O’Neal, author of Ornette Coleman, this song “pokes fun at traditional musical structure, featuring a tonal center that hides from the listener”.[4] The first song on the album, it lets the audience know that Coleman was ready to “leave musical concepts of keys, chords and melodies behind.”


“The Blessing” was another piece that appeared on Something Else!!!!. John Litweiler, author of Ornette Coleman: The Harmolodic Life, mentions Don Cherry’s comments about the “plastic alto” and how it has a “warmer, drier sound than a metal alto” and with this it makes Coleman’s “bent notes so effective”.

Reviewer Chris Kesley calls Coltrane’s approach to the tune “restrained”.

The Avant-Garde is one of seven albums that Coltrane recorded for Atlantic between 1959 and 1962. The free jazz style of the album was considered controversial and “lacking the necessary discipline to represent America’s art form.”

This new jazz composition by Coleman features surprising rhythmic accents, asymmetrical melodic phrases, and the incorporation of brass instruments and drums into the melody of the song. A unique feature of this album is its lack of pianist and usage of brass instruments to carry each piece. Also, Cherry and Coltrane complement each other with contrasting sound as Coltrane “leaps into [the music] like a man possessed, while Cherry answers with a feathery tone.” (Larkin)


This album is rightfully co-credited to Don Cherry (trumpet), who ably trades blows with John Coltrane (tenor/soprano sax) throughout. The Avant-Garde also boasts the debut studio recording of Coltrane playing soprano sax — on “The Blessing” — in addition to his continuing advancements on tenor. Although these tracks were recorded during the summer of 1960, they remained shelved for nearly six years. Joining Coltrane and Cherry are essentially the rest of the members of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, Ed Blackwell (drums) and Charlie Haden (bass) on “Cherryco” and “The Blessing,” as well as Percy Heath (bass) on the remaining three selections. This is fitting, as over half of the album consists of early Coleman compositions. Coltrane’s integration into this band works with some extraordinarily fresh results. Neither Cherry nor Coltrane makes any radical departures on this album; however, it’s the ability of each to complement the other both in terms of modal style and — perhaps more importantly — texture that lends heavily to the success of these sides. Cherry’s brisk and somewhat nasal intonations on “The Blessing” mimic those of Miles Davis, albeit with shorter flourishes and heavily improvised lines. When combined with Coltrane’s well-placed — if not somewhat reserved — solos, the mutual value of both is dramatically increased. Blackwell — the only other musician besides Cherry and Coltrane to be featured on every track — provides some non-conventional percussive accompaniment. His contributions to “The Blessing” and workout on the aptly titled “Focus on Sanity” are primal. (by Lindsay Planer)


Ed Blackwell (drums)
Don Cherry (cornet)
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Percy Heath (bass)
Charlie Haden (bass on 01. + 03.)

01. Cherryco (Cherry) 6.48
02. Focus On Sanity (Coleman) 12.14
03. The Blessing (Coleman) 7.52
04. The Invisible (Coleman) 4.11
05. Bemsha Swing (Monk/Best) 5.03



LinerNotestaken from the original liner notes

Don Cherry – Live In Frankfurt (1968)

FrontCover1Trumpeter Don Cherry might have honed his craft when he played with Ornette Coleman in the late ’50s and early ’60s but he did not hesitate to flex his musical muscles on his own.

To call Cherry a trumpet player is not only misleading but does a great injustice to the musician. While he played the trumpet and cornet and assorted flutes, he was adept at the piano and even experimented with electronics.

So it was not a great surprise to find Cherry performing a free jazz-ish set with Steve Lacy at the Deutsches Jazzfestival in Frankfurt in March 1968 and then record the world-fusion Eternal Sunshine in November (with Albert Mangelsdorff and Sonny Sharrock among others).

In an interview, Cherry said: “The form of jazz where you had the composition, then the sax solo, trumpet solo, piano solo, drum solo, then trade fours – that concept doesn’t open up for surprises. And surprise is, to me, one of the most important things in life, for inspiration. I would write compositions so I could change those compositions. Or I’d have one artist solo in one piece and out of that piece we’d go to another, maybe never going back to what we started with.”

Not only that, Cherry appeared to be a very fair leader, allowing every member here to shine and the intricate interaction among the players was not lost on the appreciative Frankfurt audience. Listening to this set, one can just picture Cherry with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.

Don Cherry died in Spain in 1995 due to liver failure. He was 58. (by bigozine2)

Thanks to Jazzrita for sharing this show on the Dime site.

Recorded live at the Deutsches Jazzfestival 1968, Volksbildungsheim, Frankfurt, Germany, March 24, 1968. Very good German FM recording


Karl Berger (vibraphone, piano)
Kent Carter (bass)
Don Cherry (cornet, bamboo flute)
Steve Lacy (saxophone)
Jacques Thollot (drums)


01. Tune In (Berger) 6.01
02. A New Folk (Cherry) 12.24
03. Bird Suite (Berger) 7.13
04. Going Home (Berger) (fade-out) 4.15


Alternate front+back cover


Don Cherry – Where Is Brooklyn (1966)

FrontCover1“Where Is Brooklyn” was Don Cherry’s final album for Blue Note, and it returned to the quartet format of Complete Communion, this time featuring Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax along with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Ed Blackwell. Here, Cherry abandons his concept of recording all the album’s compositions as side-long medleys; rather, each is treated separately, with spaces in between the tracks. There wasn’t a need to integrate the compositions by periodically returning to their themes, so perhaps that’s why Cherry doesn’t really focus as much on bringing out his compositions this time around. Where Is Brooklyn is much more about energy and thoughtful group interaction than memorable themes, and so there’s just a little something missing in comparison to Cherry’s prior albums, even though they did also emphasize the qualities on display here. Nonetheless, it’s still a fine record for what it does concentrate on; Sanders is in typically passionate form, and the rest of the ensemble members have already honed their interplay to a pretty sharp edge. It’s worth hearing, even if it isn’t as essential as Complete Communion or Symphony for Improvisers. (by Steve Huey)

Ed Blackwell (drums)
Don Cherry (trumpet, cornet)
Henry Grimes (bass)
Pharoah Sanders (saxophone)


01. Awake Nu 6.55
02. Taste Maker 6.48
03. The Thing 5.50
04. There Is The Bomb 4.51
05. Unite 17.48

All compositions written by Don Cherry