"Tracks: Memoirs from a Life with Music" by Peter Cherches

  • "Tracks: Memoirs from a Life with Music" by Peter Cherches

In these mini memoirs, Peter Cherches revisits musical experiences, pleasures, and obsessions that have punctuated his life. A singer and lyricist as well as “one of the innovators of the short short story” (Publishers Weekly), Cherches writes here from the perspective of a voracious listener for whom music is a constant companion. Whether reminiscing about the joys of musical discovery or paying tribute to musicians who have inspired him, Cherches shares his passions with verve and wit. From an early baptism in Beatlemania, to adolescent encounters with free jazz, to expeditions for local musical treasures around the world, this collection of singles in prose is a testament to the sustaining power of music in our lives.

For playlists (Spotify and YouTube) as well as other links, please visit cherches-tracks.blogspot.com

Tracks is an autobiography distilled through tones, from The Beatles to Billie Holiday by way of Sam Rivers, Anton Webern, and Hank Williams, along with many less familiar. To read it is to partake vicariously of Peter Cherches’ boundless curiosity and appetite, his aptitude for accidental discovery, and his capacity to extrapolate a world of human connections from an intercepted fragment of sound.
—Geoffrey O’Brien, author of Sonata for Jukebox
Peter Cherches is a cultural weather vane, ping-ponging from Thelonious Monk to the Partridge Family—and Webern. For many years I’d go out to hear live music, from jazz, to world, or experimental, and see him, amongst the crowd, fully absorbed in the moment. Tracks reveals a personal playlist filled with subtle surprise and firsthand wisdom.
—John Kruth, musician, author of Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band, 50 Years On
Here’s a tip for anyone interested in writing songs—lyrics, that is—from Lee Feldman, a Cherches collaborator when he began performing, singing in clubs, writing lyrics, and recording. Cherches asked Feldman what he thought worked best in a lyric. “He said strong visual imagery was the thing he most looks for, the picture that can crystallize the sentiment.” This comes in a piece on Motown, with a heart-rending anecdote about the conception of I Wish It Would Rain written by Rodger Penzabene for the Temptations. Cherches explains the background and consequence of these lyrics so poignantly the diamond-hard crystal their sentiment becomes could draw blood from the heart of a zombie.

Matt Paust

May 20, 2021

The Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)

Miles Davis, “Straight, No Chaser,” from Milestones (1958)

Mountain, “Theme from an Imaginary Western,” from Climbing! (1970)

The Partridge Family, “Come On, Get Happy – The Partridge Family Theme” (1970)

The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain” (1967)

Johnny Winter/Ten Years After, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (1969)

Hank Williams, “Lovesick Blues” (1949)

Sam Rivers Trio, “Ecstasy,” from Paragon (1977)

Mark Murphy, “Stolen Moments,” from Stolen Moments (1978)

João Bosco, “Papel Machê,” from Gagabirô (1984)

Steve Lacy, “Micro Worlds,” from Clinkers (1978)

Chris Smither, “No Love Today,” from Live as I’ll Ever Be (2000)

Drupatee, “Mr. Bissesar” (1988)

Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, “Conduction 58,” from Holy Sea Vol. 1 (1999)

Bobby “Blue” Bland, “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” (1964)

Louis Armstrong, “Beale Street Blues,” from Plays W.C. Handy (1954)

Sergey Penkin, “Feelings,” from Holiday (1991)

Anton Webern, “Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9” (1913)

Thelonious Monk, “Blue Monk” (1952)

The Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” (1965)

Billie Holiday, “I Cover the Waterfront” (1944)

Peter Cherches

Called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly, Peter Cherches has lived his creative life in the literary, music, and performance worlds of New York City and beyond for over four decades, as writer, editor, performance artist, singer, and lyricist.
    His writing has appeared in scores of magazines, anthologies and websites, including Transatlantic Review, Harper’s, Bomb, North American Review, Fiction International, Fence, Little Star, High Times, Hambone, Semiotext(e), MungBeing, and Poetry 180. Poet Billy Collins wrote, “To Gödel, Escher, and Bach we might consider adding Peter Cherches.” He has published three volumes of short prose with Pelekinesis since 2013: Lift Your Right Arm, Autobiography Without Words, and Whistler’s Mother’s Son. In addition, he has published three limited-edition letterpress artist’s books with Purgatory Pie Press: Colorful Tales, Mondrian-Tac-Toe, and Unfamiliar Tales.
    In the 1980s, Cherches was a fixture on New York’s downtown music scene. Sonorexia, his collaborative “avant-vaudeville” band with multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp, performed at such venues as 8BC, Darinka, Club 57, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, CBGB, The Mudd Club, and Folk City. They released a cassette, It’s Uncle!, in 1985, now available digitally.
    In 1984 he also began collaborating with keyboardist and songwriter Lee Feldman, writing original songs and performing monologues with improvised synthesizer soundtracks they called “Movies for the Ears.” They have appeared at a wide range of venues in New York City, including La MaMa, The Knitting Factory, The Cat Club, St. Peter’s Church, Cornelia Street Cafe, The Duplex Cabaret, and The Lone Star. Cherches and Feldman continue to work together to this day.
    Peter Cherches started performing jazz in 1987, singing his original lyrics to compositions by the likes of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell with some of the top jazz players from New York’s downtown scene. His first album as a jazz vocalist, Mercerized! Songs of Johnny Mercer, featuring Lee Feldman on piano, was released in 2016.

Facebook: @PeterCherchesWriter

Website: cherches-tracks.blogspot.com

Trailer for the chapbook Tracks: Memoirs from a Life with Music by Peter Cherches. Video from Peter Cherches. Editing by Dennis Callaci.

Blue Monk, Cornelia Street Cafe, March 13, 2016. Lee Feldman on piano.

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