Seymour Wright

Itinerant Idea-ism

Itinerant speculations on Don Cherry’s 1966 visit to London.

(To me) ideas are at their most interesting as they are being had; how they move, their scale, their proportion, their evolution, and (but less so) their decay fascinates me. (To me) how imagination, ideas and individuals intersect in inevitable investigation of the weird or new (or “awkward”1) is also fascinating; the friction (for it is that) between these live aspects is an endlessly rich creative and warming energy and wealth (to me). It keeps me going, it is the future, and the learning, about which I go on (and on).

Often, this warmth is intangible and only intermittently salient (to me); but occasionally, indeterminate tangibles accrue and illumine this weird power. And then there it is—intense, instant, at once past, present and future—red-hot, sparking, potential-rich (present fun/future treasure). Increasingly, I understand that I am interested in the people, places and things that I am because this compelling (to me) ideas-rich force resides (differently) in them—jazz (to me) is one example, and (my) London is another.

Something I (re-)read recently rendered an instance of this weird aggregate of idea / investigation / imagination / possibility (to me). Worth sharing because (to me) it presents the qualities described above, it presumes (or engenders) some knowledge of jazz, food and London (that I hope do not make it too exclusive). It grows as large as the imagination you can give it.

We met in a Fleet Street coffee bar, and in between cups of tea and rum babas, [Don] Cherry talked […]

You don’t need to imagine that. It’s real; from an article by Bob Houston “CHERRY HITS PUDDING LANE EC3—blows over Thames”, published on page 6 of Melody Maker on November 28, 1964 2. “An abrupt, anonymous phone call to the Melody Maker office” the article explains,

…left the message: “Don Cherry is here at the Monument Club”. Frantic phone calls ultimately proved that Don Cherry, THE Don Cherry whose pocket trumpet allied to Ornette Coleman’s plastic saxophone turned the jazz world upside down five years ago, was in London.

And, amongst (many) other things that,

Cherry is at present touring Europe with a group which includes bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray [half of the group along with Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai and Albert Ayler that had in June 1964 recorded New York Eye and Ear Control]. He had taken advantage of a lull between gigs to come across from Paris to London for a few days.

All he had was the clothes he stood in, and a 68-year-old cornet which he now uses instead of the famous pocket trumpet.

“What was Don doing in London?” Houston goes on to ask (along with much more about the Ornette-quartet-story, and Cherry’s new-old cornet),

Oh, I’ve just been moving around. In the evenings I’ve been taking my horn and practising on the embankment down at Chelsea. Yeah I practice in the open air. Just standing there.

The ludic ideas-richness of this article (Ornette would not play in London until August 1965, Ayler until November 1966) is potentially indefinite (to me): the surreal (river) Fleet Street (press rendered) repast; the beautiful, devotional Chelsea Bridge (Strayhorn, 1941) pilgrimage (possible); the London-local exchange of ideas and experience (potential).

This half-page article invites imagination with its ample potential; and, what it offers to the imagination is an example of the energy-wealth I try to articulate above. It allows us to ask, for a start, what did Cherry’s Chelsea-Bridge-proximate practice sound like?

And, who heard it?

and, what else did he do?

Where did he move around?

and, around (with) who?

and, where did he stay?

and, where else did he play?

and, when?

and, what?

and who with?

and to who?

And, who saw or heard him?

And, who met him?

and what did they say?

and what did he say?

And who did he meet?

and what did he say?

and what did they say?

and did they play?


and, how knowingly?

How did it sound?

How did he look?

Who cared?

and who didn’t?

Who knew?

Who knows?

Ideas (actual)?


And how did (does) this move (into) the future?



  1. What I have called the “awkward wealth of investigation”; Seymour Wright, “notes to penumbrae,” Harlow: Matchless, 2011.

  2. The immediately above, and following, quotes all come from this same article: Bob Houston, “Cherry hits Pudding Lane EC3—blows over Thames”
    [ref]Melody Maker November 28, 1964, p.6.

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