Organic Music Society


One of the towering figures in American music,
Don Cherry was part of the revolutionary free-bop quartet
led by Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s and early 1960s,
an ensemble that helped shift the conversation about jazz
from chord changes and swing to freedom and energy. Always an
independent spirit, Cherry brought his openness and burgeoning
knowledge of traditional musics from around the world to bear on
Coleman’s project, lending an infectious, absolutely original air to
the bold new music. By the late 1960s, the pocket-cornet player was
living in Sweden, with his wife Moki Karlsson, playing with Swedish
musicians from all backgrounds, seeking out exciting partners
in a somewhat hippie-like atmosphere. It was in this milieu, in the
summers of 1971 and 1972, that Cherry recorded the tracks for his
legendary double LP, Organic Music Society, which was released on
Caprice and is now reissued for the first time on CD.

The sessions that comprise Organic Music Society are varied and
represent several directions in Cherry’s oeuvre. Only two tracks
(‘Elixir’ and ‘Relativity Suite’) were recorded in a studio setting;
the rest of the music was made live, in wildly divergent circumstances.
Along with various top-notch Swedish players – Bengt
Berger, Christer Bothén, Tommy Koverhult – the accomplices
include Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz and an early appearance
by the Brazilian berimbau specialist Naná Vasconcelos. Cherry
himself performs on pocket cornet, but also on voice, harmonium,
flute, conch shell, and piano. Compositions include some familiar
material, such as ‘Relativity Suite’ and Pharoah Sanders’ classic
‘The Creator Has a Master Plan,’ and fascinating material from
Dollar Brand (‘Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro’) and even the worldminimalist
composer Terry Riley (‘Terry’s Tune’). Some tracks are
long, loose, and meditative (‘North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn’),
while others are taut and bracing; on one track, a 50-piece string
orchestra accompanies the band. Across the board, on Organic
Music Society we find Cherry’s intense interest in multicultural
sounds, in the intersections of improvisation and folk music, and
the expansion of jazz into a melting pot of sonic experience.