Jazz Standards.com : Jazz Standards : Songs : History : Biographies
Home Overview Songs Biographies History Theory Search Bookstore About

Cherokee (Indian Love Song) (1938)

Share your comments on this tune...

Origin and Chart Information
“Although it was a hit for the Charlie Barnet Orchestra, ‘Cherokee’ wasn’t really considered a vehicle for jazz improvisation until Charlie Parker’s arrival in New York in the early 1940’s.”

- Chris Tyle

AKAIndian Love Song
Rank 39
Words and Music Ray Noble

British bandleader Ray Noble wrote and introduced “Cherokee” as the first of five movements for “Indian Suite” (Cherokee, Comanche War Dance, Iroquois, Seminole, and Sioux Sue). The following year trumpeter and arranger Billy May created a hit instrumental arrangement of “Cherokee” for Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra. The tune would rise to number fifteen on the pop charts.

An extension of “Cherokee” titled “Redskin Rhumba” subsequently became Barnet’s theme song. According to Don Kennedy, host of the Big Band Jump radio show,

It was, of course, based on the plunger-muted trombones, but the “melody” was simply Barnet’s ad-lib tenor sax noodlings. That way, he told me, it could be expanded or contracted to fit any situation in a “live” remote.

“Redskin Rhumba” is credited to Dale Bennett, a pseudonym for Charlie Barnet.

“Indian Suite” may be heard in its entirety on Ray Noble & His American Orchestra Centenary Issue: 26 Original Mono Recordings 1935-1947 2004 Asv Living Era.


More on Ray Noble at JazzBiographies.com

“Cherokee” was not Ray Noble’s first hit song. He had written the words and music to “Love Is the Sweetest Thing” (1932), “The Very Thought of You” (1934), “The Touch of Your Lips” (1936) and “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” (1938). The first two songs were number one hits on the pop charts.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

More information on this tune...

George T. Simon
Big Bands Songbook
Barnes & Noble

(Author/drummer Simon devotes four pages to the songwriter and the performers and includes the sheet music.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Charlie Parker
Early Bird
1996 Epm Musique 158572
Original recording 1942
On this early performance, we can hear Parker digging into “Cherokee.” Even though the bebop movement had not yet begun in earnest, Bird was already ahead of his time and developing a striking mastery of his instrument and of the negotiation of challenging harmonies.
Bud Powell
Jazz Giant
Polygram Records

This is truly vintage Powell. His improvisation on “Cherokee” is executed with jaw-dropping dexterity and creative flow. His trio-mates, Ray Brown and Max Roach, do a wonderful job of keeping up with the bright tempo.
Clifford Brown
Study In Brown
1990 Polygram 14646
Original recording 1955
Brown first recorded performance of “Cherokee,” from 1953, was brilliant. This recording, made about a year and a half later, shows how quickly and strikingly he evolved. He plays with a stunning level of assurance and control, particularly given the bright tempo.
Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton
Hampton & Getz
Polygram Records

Vibraphonist Hampton and tenor saxophonist Getz came from different eras, but they find plenty of common ground on this lengthy, high-energy romp through “Cherokee.”
Jimmy Smith
The Sounds of Jimmy Smith
2005 Blue Note 11426
Original recording 1957
This early-career performance by Smith is an excellent example of his earthy sense of swing and his thorough command of the Hammond B-3 organ.

- Noah Baerman

Sarah Vaughan
Verve Jazz Masters 18
1994 Polygram 18199
Original recording 1955
In 1955 Vaughan was the first female vocalist to cover the difficult “Cherokee” which appeared on her In the Land of Hi-Fi release. The lyric was changed, with the publisher’s permission, so that the song could be sung to an “Indian warrior” instead of an “Indian maiden.” Vaughan’s clarity, her range, her high-speed intervallic jumps are spectacular, and Cannonball Adderley takes a brilliant saxophone solo.

- Sandra Burlingame

Charlie Barnet
1999, ASV 5288

This could be considered the definitive version of the song. In this 1939 recording, Barnet and His Orchestra swing through the original, slow tempo reading of the song that would inspire so many others.
Joe Pass
2001 Pablo 2310708
Original recording 1973
Guitarist Pass’ playing is sharp and scintillating as he rips through the song on this solo turn.
Wynton Marsalis
Marsalis Standard Time ~ Vol.1
Original recording 1986
Trumpeter Marsalis treats the listener to two versions of “Cherokee.”’ Both are excellent-- one played with control and one played with abandon. While markedly different, each is electrifying and inventive.
Slide Hampton
Spirit of the Horn
Mcg Jazz

Trombonist Slide Hampton does a great job of arranging the song for a group that is almost entirely made up of trombones. This rendition is potent and clever due to what JazzTimes calls “the versatility and unlimited colors of the instrument.”

- Ben Maycock

Copyright 2005-2015 - JazzStandards.com - All Rights Reserved      Permission & contact information

Home | Overview | Songs | Biographies | History | Theory | Search | Bookstore | About