Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Stage & Studio: Remembering David Ornette Cherry

Dmae Lo Roberts reprises a 2017 podcast interview with the jazz composer, her friend and collaborator, who has died at 64.


You always think you have more time. That’s what I thought when I hit a snag in scheduling an interview with David Ornette Cherry. I was shocked to learn he died on November 20, 2022 in London after an asthma attack. David had been traveling a great deal in Europe, where he’s celebrated as the fine contemporary jazz composer that he is. He had a new album of work out and was performing concerts. I often featured his music on Stage and Studio podcasts that had no relation to him. I just loved his music. We also collaborated on two of my short films for MediaRites during the pandemic. David was one of the sweetest artists I’ve encountered in my career, and so talented. I interviewed him in 2017 in a joyous conversation as we listened through his music and he told the story of the jazz greats he was named after. Ornette Coleman and his father Don Cherry. One last time. Here’s David Ornette Cherry.  

Encore podcast originally aired 6/20/17 on KBOO radio.
Dmae Lo Roberts at the KBOO studio with David Ornette Cherry in 2017

Pianist and composer David Ornette Cherry, son of legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, salutes his father’s works along with new works of his own. The award-winning Cherry grew up in Watts, and his music is an artful combination of jazz, classical, African, and world music. His noted collaborations include Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Dewey Redman, Phil Ranelin, and Justo Almario, Thara Memory, Glenn Moore, Carlton Jackson, Kamau Daaood, and the Watts Prophet.

David was born the same year Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry recorded their first album, SOMETHIN ELSE. The ambient music streaming through his childhood was generated by the early collaborations of his dad, Don Cherry, with Coleman and the musicians who visited his parents’ Mariposa Avenue home in Los Angeles.

However, it was a wood-chopping accident one summer in Sweden that sealed David’s musical fate, as he was confined to music study and later performing with his Dad at the age of sixteen.

Hear his music and see his videos:


CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

David Ornette Cherry performing his newest works.

Discography includes: 

New Album:


SPIRIT GATHERER • Tribute to Don Cherry

ft Dwight Trible & David Ornette Cherry

Listen • Preorder here:


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

It Could Be Different brings his keyboard and soundscape magic to a fresh range of grooves and compositions, featuring the multi-talented Cherry Family along with some of his collaborators in the jazz and world music scene.

It Ensemble for Improvisors – Live/Los Angeles, composed with the idea that all exist in a world of harmonies which mirror life evolving away from the chaotic (to the positive).

Enter-Net – David merges the African rhythms and drumming he grew up with in Watts (“African Nights”) with straight up dub (“Serious Dubbing”)

The Hillsboro StoryIn a masterful collection of sounds and compositions, David Ornette Cherry’s music for Susan Banyas’ The Hillsboro Story captures the place, the drama, the characters, the two worlds, and the moods of those edgy times.

Organic Journey – marks the fifth and final CD in David Ornette Cherry’s “Organic” series, recordings that have spliced together David’s musical roots and the new branchings he continues to explore.

Organic Express: Back to the Electronic Garage – marks David Ornette Cherry’s return home from a decade-long musical journey. Back to the Electronic Garage expresses David’s deep reconnection with his musical beginnings, the Watts garage where he began delving into music and finding his voice.


CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

Cherry Jam: Open Mic is a spoken word project featuring writers performing their work on an open microphone. Contributing artists include: Susan Banyas, George Carrington, Leanne Grabel, Paul Harris, Renee Mitchell, Alena Vance, Terry Wolverton and David Ornette Cherry.

Organic Roots comprises an intricate musical rhizome, an offspring bred by recollection and innovation. The global rhizosphere in which these seeds germinated was warmed by light shining from his father Don Cherry, who created a true world music before the phrase existed.

Organic Groove is David Ornette Cherry’s musical journey grounded in jazz and seasoned with textures from far and near – touching a bit of the city, mood of the village and the world where spirit dominates the heartbeat.

Ensemble for improvisors is the brainchild of David Ornette Cherry featuring the unique creative collaboration of David on acoustic piano; Billy Higgins, drums; Justo Almario, reeds; Roberto Miranda, acoustic bass; and Jon Williams, trumpet.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on, which continues at ArtsWatch.


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