This is the best music ﬁlm I never made. Almost a BBC Omnibus program, it was to be a visual/aural portrait of his home town made in collaboration with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. Don sadly died in 1995.
A music/ﬁlm collaboration between Don Cherry and Charles Garrad.
Don Cherry is a major voice in jazz. Part black and part Choctaw Indian, born in Oklahoma in 1936, he moved with his parents to Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles, when he was four years old. He grew up there and learned to play trumpet surrounded by a rich mesh of musical inﬂuences; Gospel, Mexican, Afro/Cuban, marching bands, R + B, early rock and roll...
He established himself as a pioneer of free jazz playing with Ornette Coleman in the late of ﬁfties, and has since lent his unique sound and lyricism to groundbreaking work by Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and Gato Barbieri, not to mention Lou Reed, lan Dury and many others.
His restless imagination and enormous creative energy have kept him moving and extending his musical borders all his life. Since the early sixties he has travelled the world playing with local musicians in Africa, India, and Eastern Europe, learning to play local wind and percussion instruments, and weaving new ideas into his own unique music. He is the father of "World Music" (as well as being the stepfather of chart star Neneh Cherry!) He also teaches, encouraging his students to make their own music using whatever means may be at hand - ''Music as a natural part of vour day!"
His music is uncategorisabie, inspired and very evocative.
Listening to a record of Don's I was struck by the way the music, whilst being pure and intense, seemed to relate so closely to sounds from everyday life; natural rhythms and unexpected interjections, sounds developing out of one another and conjuring up images.
I wrote and suggested to him that we should work on a sound and visual portrait of a place together. He responded enthusiastically stating categorically that Watts was "The only place to do it!"
We met several times in New York and began a very fruitful working relationship.
So the ﬁlm is to be a portrait of Watts. It is a famous black area, the setting for the feature "Colours" and many documentary ﬁlms and sociological essays.
Our ﬁlm will not take a conventional documentary style. It will approach the city from entirely di"erent point of view, becoming immersed in a physical experience of the place rather than dwelling on the usual sensational aspects of it.
We will move the audience through the place in an experiential way, exploring it visually and in terms of sound, taking particular interest in things which have an obvious rhythmic character; passing cars, footsteps on the pavement, a person breathing a dripping tap.
Percussive sounds will be mixed into the sounds from real events so that the music will actually seem to grow from the place, and the place from the music. The visual approach will be generally calm and contemplative giving time for the sound to unfold, but the camera will respond to sound and movement in the environment. Changes of pace will sometimes be generated by the sound and sometimes by the picture.
We will move from a house out onto the street, through various locations and back in again.
Many different types of sound will cross the sound track and be echoed and developed in the music; other music heard in the street, stabs of noise, a squeal of brakes, a siren...
There will be no story but we will glimpse threads of narrative, incisive little snatches of humanity, as we pass through the town, and fragments of speech and dialogue will become part of the music/soundtrack.
Don's earliest and most formative aural memories stem from Watts and some of these will be used in the ﬁlm. Some are timeless and can be worked in with contemporary events, others will be reconstructed memories of the past, but there is no chronology. The place and its sounds are the important thing...
The sound of a bell on the wheel of an ice cream cart ringing as the cart clanked down the street where he lived.
The resonance of school corridors and the clatter of school rooms.
The sound of the girl across the street from his house learning Flamenco from a 78 record.
Hearing the blaring sound of wrestling on T.V. and the grunting and banging of the wrestlers.
Listening to the sound of the saw cutting timber in the lumber yard.
Climbing the pylons to listen to the high tension wires hum.
The ﬁlm will be rich and resonant; an affectionate, sometimes poignant, response to a home town.
When he was twelve years old Don's mother asked his what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a trumpeter.
Why was that ?
So that he could express his feelings.
Her comment was "Nobody's going to give you no money for your feelings".
He went into town, laid a cloth on the ground and played his trumpet. People threw money into the cloth. He wrapped up the money in the cloth, took it home and emptied it on the ﬂoor in front of his mother.
"What's that?" she asked.
"That's money for feelings!" he replied.