OBITUARY : Don Cherry

Steve Voce's rather curmudgeonly evaluation of Don Cherry [obituary, 21 October] will have disappointed many readers who were fortunate enough to see Cherry in concert and to experience his unique gifts for themselves, writes Phil Johnson.

That Cherry's trumpet playing was neither flash nor glib in the manner of many musical technicians was a point in his favour, not a disqualification. Even so, one only has to listen to the power and fluency of his contributions to the albums of the Ornette Coleman quartet to realise how capable a jazz trumpeter he was; also, it is unlikely that John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins would have been so keen to employ him if his ability was as limited as Voce suggests.

But this is to miss the point, for Cherry's virtues as a musician were nothing to do with technique. It was the music he made, the warm feeling he conveyed, the way he invested even simple tunes or homemade instruments with a kind of grandeur, and his genuine espousal of music as a universal language beyond categories of genre or nationality, that made him great. He could play with anyone, on any instrument, at any time, from Laplander shepherds to string quartets, And he always wore the coolest of clothes too.

One correction: Neneh Cherry is Don's stepdaughter.

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