Beauty is a rare thing
June 11, 2015 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Ornette Coleman has died at 85. Free Jazz. Lonely Woman, from "The Shape of Jazz to Come". What Reason Could I Give?. Skies of America, with the London Symphony Orchestra. Gunther Schuller interviews Coleman; Ethan Iverson on Coleman.
posted by kenko (104 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
The guts to call your record "The Shape of Jazz to Come"

The goods to back it up.

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posted by gwint at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [27 favorites]


Oh, man.

Not Dancing in My Head today.


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posted by Herodios at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by pt68 at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2015


Guardian and NPR obits. The Shape of Jazz to Come (full album), and Change of the Century (full album playlist).

An absolute genius in the true sense of the word.

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posted by naju at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by the sobsister at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2015



posted by Gelatin at 10:05 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by methinks at 10:06 AM on June 11, 2015


Also: I experienced the Song X band -- Ornette, Denardo, Metheny, Haden, DeJohnette -- live in the 1980s. And let me tell you, even though I was supposed to be working, that performance of Endangered Species was not music -- it was actual transport through time, space, and dimension. Sublime.

That's where he's gone.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:12 AM on June 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Got to see him a couple of times a few years ago when he curated Meltdown. Awesome stuff. The band included three bass players and Bill Frisell. And he came on at the end of Charlie Haden's set so Haden could give him a hug.

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posted by Grangousier at 10:12 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by janey47 at 10:14 AM on June 11, 2015


What a giant. He experienced music differently from the rest of us, and I'm so glad that he was able to act as a bridge between that planet and ours. I didn't always dig what he was doing, but it was always worth trying.
posted by dfan at 10:16 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:17 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Ickster at 10:18 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by box at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2015


This is a blistering five minutes of television - Ornette on SNL, 1979.
posted by naju at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2015 [11 favorites]



posted by Smart Dalek at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by cobra libre at 10:25 AM on June 11, 2015


He delivered the impossible promise of jazz: Total freedom to improvise.

This fucking day. Christopher Lee. Ron Moody died too. I can't even.
posted by maxsparber at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Foosnark at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by mountmccabe at 10:32 AM on June 11, 2015



posted by ZeusHumms at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by bread-eater at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Mister Bijou at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2015


Man, it sucks, getting old and seeing all your heroes die.
posted by charlesminus at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2015


Who couldn't love this genius? When I was 19, my old man gave me a vinyl bootleg of one his shows put out by the UFO label. That got stolen in the 80s and I still miss it.

A friend f mine told me he was in New York for the 1st time and thought, "I wonder if Ornette Coleman is in the phone book?" He was. He invited my friend over for an impromptu sax lesson. Nice guy.

In one of the biographical accounts, it's mentioned that he put Yoko Ono up in the apartment building/artist freak out pad when she first arrived in New York. Apparently they put on a series of improv shows for a week. Are there recordings? Where are these recordings???

One of his first shows back in Texas he designed and sewed costumes for his band. I've never seen photos, but don't you want to know what kind of clothes this man created? All the arms and legs on one side and tangled together? The Shape Of Clothes To Come?

Love and infinite respect to an intellect who changed music forever.
posted by artof.mulata at 10:38 AM on June 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


his music changed my view of jazz completely, if not music. huge respect; and huge regret at his being gone.
posted by buffalo at 10:42 AM on June 11, 2015


Into Ornette's ears went Charlie Parker, and out of Ornette's (plastic!) saxophone came some of the most influential sounds of the 20th century. A giant. I'll miss him dearly.
posted by ericbop at 10:46 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by Ber at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2015


One of the most remarkable artistic voices of our lifetimes.

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posted by Joey Michaels at 10:52 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:53 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Huck500 at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh no. So very sorry to read this. Thank you, good sir, for all the years of great music.


posted by Lynsey at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by El Brendano at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2015




Oh, hell. I did not see this coming. I'm glad I got to see him when I had the chance. Thanks for all the amazing, ear-opening music, Ornette. I'm sorry there won't be any more.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by fraula at 11:00 AM on June 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


A few years ago, I saw a documentary about Charlie Haden that features some jaw-dropping footage of the Ornette Coleman Quartet in the 1950s. That music was so vital and astonishing - I can't imagine what it was like as a serious jazz fan to encounter it when it was new.

Even if he hadn't kept playing, innovating, and teaching for another half century, Coleman would be remembered.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:01 AM on June 11, 2015


Didn't ever see him live but my life would be far poorer if I hadn't heard his music. One of the greats -
posted by newdaddy at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by digitalprimate at 11:10 AM on June 11, 2015


Oh, hell. I did not see this coming.

Yeah, me neither, even though 85 years is a nice long run. I didn’t get around to seeing him in person until 2008, but of course I’m glad I finally did.

Man, it sucks, getting old and seeing all your heroes die.

But it’s nice to imagine that (if we’re good) we might end up where they’re all hanging out.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:11 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by GrapeApiary at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by vibrotronica at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Token Meme at 11:20 AM on June 11, 2015


His music was full of electricity and spirit. It took a while for it to click for me when I first heard it back in the late seventies, but once it did I became a fan for life.
posted by metagnathous at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by jason_steakums at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by maggiemaggie at 11:42 AM on June 11, 2015


This fucking day. Christopher Lee. Ron Moody died too. I can't even.

His music was full of electricity and spirit.

Speaking of electricity and spirit, nobody's going to forget James Last's contributions either...amiright?
posted by saintjoe at 11:44 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The arts community is mourning today.

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posted by Fizz at 11:57 AM on June 11, 2015


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posted by cjelli at 11:58 AM on June 11, 2015


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One of the finest American musicians. An interesting interview with Derrida and Ornette Coleman on improvisation and language.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 12:23 PM on June 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


So Dracula, Fagin, and the creator of free jazz walk up to the pearly gates, and St. Peter asks, "is this some kind of joke?"

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posted by pxe2000 at 12:33 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by kilo hertz at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2015


I heard someone mention that he was unable to make it to Charlie Haden's funeral, so, I guess I saw it coming.
posted by thelonius at 1:07 PM on June 11, 2015


well, damn.


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posted by Thorzdad at 1:20 PM on June 11, 2015


The Shape of Jazz to Come.

And it was.
posted by chavenet at 1:39 PM on June 11, 2015


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posted by Halloween Jack at 1:43 PM on June 11, 2015


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posted by klausness at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2015


WKCR is doing a whole week of Ornette:
Join us as we honor the life, the genius, and the work of Ornette Coleman, who passed away Thursday, June 11th at the age of 85 in Manhattan. Born on March 9th 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, Coleman would become an important voice and major innovator in the avant-garde jazz movement, with a career that spanned over 55 years. It is with a heavy heart that we announce the Ornette Coleman Memorial Broadcast. The Broadcast will be continuous from Thursday, June 11th until Wednesday, June 17th at 9:30 AM.
posted by languagehat at 2:07 PM on June 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


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posted by Spatch at 2:23 PM on June 11, 2015


Man, that's sad news. He and Coltrane were what my brothers played when I was a kid, and their stuff is still what I think jazz should be.
posted by Kreiger at 2:24 PM on June 11, 2015


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posted by juv3nal at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2015


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posted by cleroy at 2:57 PM on June 11, 2015


I should point out that WKCR is streaming, so if you click on "Live Broadcast" at the upper right of the page you can hear the whole thing. They're playing his first record now, Something Else! (1958)—a good place to start.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I listened to a couple Coleman albums for the first time in awhile on my walk last night. I'll always be thankful for his music.
posted by edeezy at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2015


Holy crap, what a genius.

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posted by lumpenprole at 3:48 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by .kobayashi. at 4:11 PM on June 11, 2015


Re WKCR Ornette memorial: They will be playing Ornette 24/7 for a week!

Check it out: https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/
posted by charlesminus at 4:16 PM on June 11, 2015


“I don’t want them to follow me,” he explained. “I want them to follow themselves, but to be with me.”

He lived the life and didn't leave anything on the table, but still. Sad day.





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posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:45 PM on June 11, 2015


Heard the news last night, just before bedtime here in Tokyo. Hit me, this one, it really did. Sort of took my breath away for an instant.

Thank you so much, Ornette Coleman, for all the great music and the deep inspiration. You were living proof that we can stake out our own musical territory and joyously explore and expand within it throughout a lifetime. So long, you beautiful man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by homunculus at 6:30 PM on June 11, 2015


I have been listening to Ornette since the 60’s and every time I listen to him it sounds
better. His music is in a unique esthetic world all its own. He has made me cry, dance and laugh.
...He was such a gentle person.
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posted by quazichimp at 6:52 PM on June 11, 2015


I feel privileged that I got to see him perform at the Sydney Opera House in 2008. It was fantastic.
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posted by mikelynch at 7:03 PM on June 11, 2015


got to see him for free courtesy of the Stalinist-sounding City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, which gave me much of my jazz education back there in the 80's
posted by thelonius at 7:25 PM on June 11, 2015


He was one of the first artists, of any genre, that I actively sought out.

My parents record collection consisted of largely classical works, and a few jazz pieces, Cannonball Adderley, Illinois Jacquet, Errol Brown (no Miles curiously).
None of my friends were even mildly interested in jazz, and so naturally had never heard of Ornette Coleman.
This, mind you, was in the days before Internet. Searching out these things was a labour of love, a trial, involving trawling music shops, enquiring of laisez faire counter clerks and sending special orders off to foreign lands that took 5 months to arrive.

Why would I go to this trouble? Becuase I had read in a book I cannot now recall the name of, that jazz was cool, and in the hierarcy of cool, the coolest was the most difficult to listen to.

And in the hieracy of difficulty there was this cat called Coleman whose sound was analgous to the sort of noise a porpoise being beaten to death with a saxaphone might make.

And that was a sound I had to have.
posted by Plutocratte at 7:30 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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Thanks for the WKCR link, languagehat...I don't know what concert they're playing at the moment, but it's blowing my mind.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 PM on June 11, 2015


In 1983 I performed my solo percussion show at 9pm at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Holland. It was my great good fortune that on that same night, at about 2 in the morning, Ornette's Prime Time band gave a brilliant performance of their pulsing, churning, melodically-rhythmic and rhythmically-melodic music that Ornette defined as "harmolodic". The room that Prime Time played in was one of the largest rooms of the sprawling culture center in the Hague where the festival took place, and what started as a packed-to-capacity crowd was cut in approximately half after only about 20 minutes or so into their set. Many of the conservative jazz afficionados in attendance just couldn't handle what Ornette was doing. Once again, the man had broken completely new ground, dazzling and enriching the sonic horizons of those who could go with him, alienating those who couldn't.

A true artist, uncompromising, following his vision. Forever an inspiration.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:25 PM on June 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


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There were always stories floating around about people meeting him, on the street, after a gig, or even knocking on his door and the punch line was always how nice he was.
Something to aspire to.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:00 PM on June 11, 2015


I had the great good fortune to see Mr Coleman play in the 1980's..... Mind. Blown. Utterly.

Godspeed.
posted by On the Corner at 12:32 AM on June 12, 2015


From the great Bhob Rainey:
First time I heard Ornette was in high school. A choral teacher, who was a friendly, positive influence but not exactly wildly hip, was in his office, listening to something, cracking up. I walked in to a massive counterpoint of person- and music-laughter. A student's father had picked up a Pat Metheny record, expecting some slick, tropical virtuosity, not recognizing the other artist on the spine. The album was Song X, obviously. Thoroughly disappointed, the father unloaded his purchase onto the more open-minded choral teacher, who was laughing partially because of the easily imagined reaction of the unsuspecting Metheny fan but also because the music was hitting that impossible-to-process-with-anything-but-laughter-or-tears nerve that I then recognized as something of crucial importance.

(Song X is not exactly a classic Ornette album, but I would still argue that it has tremendous moments and some great tunes.)

I shortly ended up studying jazz in a broad sense, spending years getting competent in historical styles, emulating Bird, Cannonball, 'Trane, etc., and putting Ornette on the horizon, basically as someone un-study-able. And then, life, friends, ears, and (barely) maturity conspired to change that.

Ornette became my primary model. I dug into everything I could find, emulated the shit out of him, which might seem like the antithesis of what he stood for. It could have been, but I was mostly trying to embody his music, to understand it through being it.

A lot of this happened at a university with other students – weirdos or temporarily lost individuals who copied library records onto cassette tapes and transcribed songs so that we could play them together. But later I would be in the larger world, playing jazz with people who didn't go to school but just knew the music because they played it their whole lives with others who did the same. It's a story that's easy to romanticize (the discovery of the "real" musicians playing the "real" music that you only knew through records), and I do romanticize it in my memory, but I'll spare you that for now.

During this time, I would play out almost every night, usually three long sets until bars closed, and I would get home around 3am feeling wide awake. To calm my mind, I'd smoke a little calming stuff and sometimes listen to a record really quietly.

One night, the calming stuff was working quite well, and I listened to Song X. Ornette's playing spoke so clearly to me that I was utterly elated and felt that rush of massive possibility that we often spend the bulk of our lives trying to recapture. In fact, the next night, I tried to replicate the moment. Same long night of music, same dose of calming stuff, same album. This time, I was completely devastated. I knew that I'd never be able to play like Ornette, that my feel for his bop-folksy phrasing and sneaky key changes was basically manufactured. I could hear how it poured out of him and how it was squeezed out of me.

So, from the weeds of all my study and emulation, Ornette taught me the two great lessons in two days: how high the experience of music could go and how you really had no choice but to figure out your own way to get it there.

I'm sadder today than I expected to be – why be sad for 85 incredibly fruitful years? But it's at least partially because, like so many others, a large portion of my life is a radical scar grown around the spectacular wound Ornette inflicted on me. Is that too melodramatic? Not enough, really.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:57 AM on June 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


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posted by talking leaf at 3:55 AM on June 12, 2015


This one hurt a bit. Was sad, then listened to some of the music again. Me no sad now!
posted by Wolof at 4:19 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by eclectist at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2015


The amount of opprobrium he had to endure from fellow jazz greats was astonishing and, I think, unprecedented in music. He had the heart of a lion.
posted by Chitownfats at 6:28 AM on June 12, 2015


> The amount of opprobrium he had to endure from fellow jazz greats was astonishing and, I think, unprecedented in music.

Not unprecedented—Lester Young and Monk both had to put up with a lot of shit from musicians who should have known better—but yeah, he probably had it worst. (Though, to be fair, he was so far out there compared to what anyone else was doing that it would have been miraculous had he not taken a lot of shit for it.)
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on June 12, 2015


When I started exploring jazz, I delayed listening to Ornette because of the reputation of "free jazz" as difficult music - intense, noisy, chaotic. And yet, when I first heard the Atlantic recordings, what struck me was how warm and accessible and tuneful and lovable they were. Same with Cecil Taylor and (to some extent) Albert Ayler. Maybe it's because I have no musical training, so I'm not listening to someone playing the "wrong" notes, but there's a very high level of direct human communication going on in Ornette's music.

(Monk I had real difficulty with at first, though once I "got" Monk, mainly through listening to other people's recordings of his tunes, I listened to little else for months).
posted by nja at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The amount of opprobrium he had to endure from fellow jazz greats was . . . unprecedented . . .

Ever heard of Albert Ayler? Everybody hated Albert until after he was gone.


After preview: Not piling on, just saying. Pretty much any innovator is gonna get a lot of stick from others who don't want to go so far. Dizzy Gillespie got fired for playing 'Chinese music'. And have you ever read Miles' reviews? He got it coming (predecessors, contemporaries) and going (Wynton Marsalis).
 
posted by Herodios at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone take Wynton Marsalis seriously? The man is essentially a cosplaying reenactor who wants to pretend that music stopped in the early sixties.
posted by Kreiger at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2015


> Does anyone take Wynton Marsalis seriously?

Have you heard him with the Jazz Messengers, which he joined as a teenager? Jesus Christ, he was amazing, and his early solo stuff is wonderful too. Yeah, he's very tedious about jazz history and doesn't like or understand anything after hard bop, but it's a mistake to judge artists by their statements about art (or anything else, for that matter).
posted by languagehat at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I should have specified "as a commentator", there, you're right.
posted by Kreiger at 8:51 AM on June 12, 2015


Does anyone take Wynton Marsalis seriously? The man is essentially a cosplaying reenactor who wants to pretend that music stopped in the early sixties.

Pretty much everybody takes Wynton Marsalis seriously. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner, after all, and nine Grammies, and an NEA Jazz Master award.

He's a bit retro, yes, but that's not all that strange in jazz, which has a long tradition of reviving seemingly moribund styles and exploring them for new possibilities.
posted by maxsparber at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2015


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Thanks for the music, sir.
posted by phoebus at 10:12 AM on June 12, 2015


This is a blistering five minutes of television - Ornette on SNL , 1979.

wow, Jamaaladeen still playing the Rickenbacker there!
posted by thelonius at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2015


The amount of opprobrium he had to endure from fellow jazz greats was astonishing and, I think, unprecedented in music

funny, when I tuned into the marathon memorial broadcast this morning, the DJ was talking about how there were musicians who got what he was doing immediately, as well, and that this has been obscured by the narrative about the contempt that he endured
posted by thelonius at 5:39 PM on June 12, 2015


Pretty damn good
About 20 years later, when I was fresh out of grad school and getting deeply into jazz, Charlie Parker was my alpha and omega, and I just didn't get Ornette. I couldn't hear through what I thought was noise. A friend (I forget who—if you're out there, let me know) showed me the light by playing three songs: one Parker and two Colemans.

The first song was "Klactoveesedstene," from Parker's 1947 Dial studio sessions, a rippingly uptempo bebop classic, which I knew well. The second was Ornette playing "Klactoveesedstene" (one of the very few times he's been recorded covering someone else's tune) on a 1958 live session at the Hillcrest Club in Los Angeles, along with his quartet, plus Paul Bley on piano. I was floored. Ornette was playing note-perfect Parker, but with a twist. The tempo, though no faster than Parker's, felt faster, more fevered; the cadences were choppier; the passages were punctuated with a bluesy wail. And the rhythm section, instead of simply keeping up and comping the chords, was going its own way, each player supplying his own commentary. It was hair-raising, in a way that was the opposite of Parker's approach to jazz. Yet the juxtaposition strongly suggested that this was the path Parker may well have followed, or carved out himself, if he hadn't died so young.

The third song my friend put on was "Lonely Woman," Coleman's anthemic dirge from his 1959 album with the presumptuous but prophetic title The Shape of Jazz to Come. Heard right after his cover of Parker, it suddenly made sense; the links clicked, the lights flashed on, my conception of jazz expanded. Once the lines became clear, so did the music's allure and indigo beauty. And the key to that was Coleman himself—his fleet but knife-edged phrasing and, still more, his tone: nakedly passionate, infused with note-bending blues.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Heh. I haven't listened to KCR for many years, not since I moved out of the city in 2004, and still, I heard three words after a set of music ended and said "That's Phil Schaap," and sure enough, it was. He announced he was going to be doing more talking than playing music—fair warning!—and started going on and on about Ornette playing the tenor. I checked in an hour later out of curiosity and he was still going on and on about Ornette playing the tenor. He may be doing it all day. (Phil Schaap previously on the blue, with much eloquent vituperation.)
posted by languagehat at 12:36 PM on June 13, 2015


> The amount of opprobrium he had to endure from fellow jazz greats was astonishing and, I think, unprecedented in music

> funny, when I tuned into the marathon memorial broadcast this morning, the DJ was talking about how there were musicians who got what he was doing immediately, as well, and that this has been obscured by the narrative about the contempt that he endured


I read a pretty good book about Coleman's NYC debut named The Battle of the Five Spot, by David Lee, a few years ago. It's definitely written in academese, but I thought it was an interesting overview of the kerfuffle.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:15 AM on June 16, 2015


I'd love to read it, but Jesus Christ:

14 Used from $40.62
5 New from $114.43


Guess I'll see if the library has it!
posted by languagehat at 12:10 PM on June 16, 2015


The KCR memorial broadcast is over; I was afraid Phil Schaap was just going to keep maundering on to the very end, but he finally shut up and played "Peace," a nice finish. And then there were three minutes of absolute silence, whether out of respect or while they dragged Phil away from the mike I'm not sure. At any rate, I thought I'd quote a chunk of Max Harrison's fine essay on Beauty Is a Rare Thing in The Essential Jazz Records, Vol. 2: Modernism to Postmodernism (an essential book indeed for any jazz fan):
Rather than Coleman's early records being bolts from the blue which they still appear in the selective light of historical memory, they ... crystallized certain hitherto scattered tendencies, fortifying them with the hand of genius. In one obvious sense he was a modern primitive, his work a response to, or reaction against, the sophistication jazz had acquired by the end of the 1950s; hence his shock value when people first became aware of him. ...

... Hence he was, again, less radical than was at one time supposed and yet the hostility of musicians in particular was in one sense predictable. Coleman rejected, to a large degree bypassed, their carefully acquired sophistication and the Southern accent of his blues music reminded them of things of which they did not, until rather later, wish to be reminded. The bitterness of Miles Davis's comments seems all the odder in view of his own efforts to break away from 'running the changes', but presumably they expressed nothing more than professional jealousy generated by the amount of press attention Coleman received when he first played in New York. The commentators who witnessed that engagement at the old Five Spot, very few of whom deserved to be described as critics, had to pretend to their readers, to themselves, and above all to each other, that they completely understood what was happening in the music although few of them did, and decades later some of them still do not. Yet what Coleman had done was simple, even inevitable. ...

Despite his often opaque verbal and written comments, especially on his later harmolodic notions, he did at least once convey his ideas clearly outside music: 'Emphasis is placed on the melodic line rather than on the chord structure of a composition. The tonality of a piece emerges from what is played ... we are not restricted by bar divisions or chords or even the melodic line. You might think there would be confusion, but there isn't . . . Jimmy Dorsey, Pete Brown, Johnny Hodges and Parker all left something of themselves with me . . . By working with pitch and reaching for the sound of the human voice I found satisfaction and adequate expression.' He was above all articulate on wanting the alto saxophone to sound like the human voice, this being precisely what disturbed many about his music, although it has become commonplace more recently to say that it is now hard to understand why his music caused such vast indignation.

This was understandable in that Coleman made a fuller and more systematic use not only of the blue notes and blues melodic formulas referred to above but also of all the other off-pitch notes and other sounds, the bent, vocalized and otherwise inflected sounds — with which all listeners ought already to have been familiar from the jazz tradition. His liberation from the chord sequences basic to most jazz hitherto carried with it, as he said in the quotation above, a leaving-behind of standard phrase and chord structure and any concept of formal melodic variation. ... His playing was modal in a rather different sense from that of Coltrane or Davis, being rooted in older, simpler — virtually pre-jazz — black folk idioms. ...

Beside him, other jazz improvisations, though not Ayler's, offer too little resistance to closure, too little purposeful uncertainty and hence too little information; impulses within the musical material are gratified without obstacle or deviation, and parametric relationships are conformant. Coleman's solos make us feel, even now, the uncertainty of the improbable while convincing us, finally, of its aptness. They occupy a rich terrain of functional ambiguity, and such functional ambiguity, where contradictory potentials are embedded in the same structure, are a formidable condition of great music.
That's just part of the intro, before he gets into discussion in detail the music in the collection. I know the style is academic, but if that's not a deal-breaker, it's tremendously informative and helps you (or at least me) hear the music better.
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by jlbartosa at 5:43 AM on June 18, 2015


This is a blistering five minutes of television - Ornette on SNL , 1979.

wow, Jamaaladeen still playing the Rickenbacker there!


Already a renaissance man, perhaps, but not yet a show-stopper. Not yet sunk in the funk.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2015




Beautiful, thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2015


Ornette Coleman and a Joyful Funeral
The ceremony began with a processional led by Bachir Attar and musicians from Morocco whom Coleman first encountered when he visited the country’s mountain villages forty years ago. Michael Livingston, the executive minister at Riverside, noted Coleman’s “revolutionary presence.” And this revolutionary spirit in music, along with his personality—soft-spoken, kind, gentle, elusive, elliptical—was the theme of the day. “Ornette didn’t play free jazz, what he did was he freed jazz,” said Howard Mandel, a critic and one of the speakers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:26 AM on June 30, 2015


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