A tribute to Don Cherry at Maverick

Don Cherry on cover of Brown Rice

If it hadn’t been for trumpeter Don Cherry, Karl Berger might not have come to the US. The two met in Paris in the 1960s, and after playing with Berger, Cherry urged him to try the American music scene. “Musically, he brought a real sense of joy and humor into jazz,” Berger says of Cherry. “He based his music on folk music from all over the world, so it was very accessible.” Eventually, Berger moved with his wife, Ingrid Sertso, to Woodstock, where they founded the Creative Music Studio. It brought many students and important musician/teachers here, and continues in operation today.

Cherry died in 1995, but his music lives on. When Berger was invited to perform the closing concert of the 2017 Jazz at the Maverick series this Saturday, he decided to make it a tribute to Cherry. “Cherry’s tradition of playing is folksy and humorous, and gives off a very positive vibe,” Berger says. “And most of the guys in this concert actually played with Don,” including multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum (who toured with Cherry), tuba player Bob Stewart (featured on more than 80 recordings) and cornet player Graham Haynes, son of the legendary drummer Roy Haynes (currently a member of the Vijay Iyer Sextet).

Others involved in the concert are trumpeter Steven Bernstein, a member of the Lounge Lizards and of the Levon Helm Midnight Ramble Band; bassist Adam Lane, who recorded with Tom Waits and is winner of several Meet the Composer Awards; and drummer Tani Tabbal, who played with Sun Ra and has been on more than 70 CDs, four of them as leader. Vibraphonist Karl Berger, artistic director of the Creative Music Studio, is a six-time Downbeat Critics’ Poll winner. Vocalist Ingrid Sertso, co-director of CMS, has performed with Cherry, Eric Dolphy and Lee Konitz, blending jazz and world-music styles in her performances.


“Some of Don’s pieces have become very well-known,” says Berger, mentioning especially “Art Deco,” dedicated to Billie Holiday. Sertso has written lyrics to that and many other songs of Cherry’s, and she will be singing some of them at the Maverick. Although eight musicians are involved, Berger says that they will be performing in various combinations, including possibly duets or even a solo.

A tribute to Don Cherry by Ingrid Sertso & Karl Berger’s All-Star Octet, September 2, 8 p.m., $25, Maverick Concert Hall, 120 Maverick Road, Woodstock; (800) 595-4849, www.maverickconcerts.org.