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Dom Minasi interviews Ed Cherry for AAJ…

Guitar great Ed Cherry, who earned his bones working with Dizzy Gillespie, has something to say, too.

DM: The illusive “they” are always talking about moving the music forward. Do you think by adding electronics such as wah-wahs, loops, distortion etc. is helping do that?

Ed Cherry: If it’s done with taste, restraint and good sound, then I’m all for it.

DM: Is there a place for electronics in jazz?

EC: You mean like, when Charlie Christian showed up with an amp and electric guitar to the gig? Or when Miles put Keith Jarrett in front of a Fender Rhodes, or when Eddie Harrisplugged his tenor sax into a Varitone? Um, yes, I, I think there’s a place in jazz for electronics (to me this is similar to your first question)…


DM: Some musicians are using odd time signatures (7/8, 11/8/ 13/8); is that really what jazz is suppose to be?

EC: Well, I guess it’s cool. I mean I really liked what Steve Coleman was doing with odd time back in the ’80s, but for me, I can’t listen to that all night, I want to tap my foot and dance if I want to. I think Milt Jackson said something like “it don’t mean a thing…if you can’t tap your foot to it.” It’s got to be swingin’ at some point during the night. My dad told me back his day, that he and my mom would dance to “Just Friends,” by Charlie Parker or “This Is Always,” by Earl Coleman. This is music for the people, let’s dance!

DM: Just because it’s improvisation, is it jazz?

 EC: Dizzy called it “our music.” If we are playing “our music,” there’s got to be swing, it’s got to be soulful, the feeling of the blues and the African American church has to be up in there somewhere, or else to me, it isn’t jazz (America’s classical music—another name Dizzy used in describing “our music”). Charlie Parker had all those ingredients in his playing whenever you heard him (and if you are a young non-African American student of this music, you have to understand and appreciate the full spectrum of Black Music in this country and be fully aware of the socio-political aspects that went into its formation). There are influences from other countries in the music all over the place now, and that’s great, but if the soloist is playing stiff and sounding like a classical musician playing what he thinks “our music” is supposed to sound and feel like, well, I shut down immediately on that. No matter how far out John Coltrane got, you always heard that “moan” or “shiver” in his solos. That’s the blues, that’s the church you are hearing (I think I heard Wynton say that somewhere).