World of Jazz 134 – A Tribute to Ornette Coleman

PLAYLIST

  1. Ornette Coleman Quartet – Lonely Woman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1958)
  2. Ornette Coleman Quartet – Beauty Is A Rare Thing – This Is Our Music (1960)
  3. Ornette Coleman Quartet – Ramblin’ – Change Of The Century (1960)
  4. Ornette Coleman & Prime Time – To Know What I Know – Opening The Caravan Of Dreams (1985)
  5. James Blood Ulmer – Morning Bride – Tales of Captain Black (1979)
  6. Ornette Coleman – Song for Che – Crisis (1972)
  7. Ornette Coleman – What Is The Name Of That Song – Of Human Feelings (1982)
  8. Ornette Coleman – Ballad – The Great London Concert (1975)
  9. Ornette Coleman & Prime Time with Jerry Garcia – Desert Players – Virgin Beauty (1988)
  10. Yoko On0 – AOS – Plastic Ono Band (1970)
  11. Ornette Coleman – Little Symphony – Twins (1971)
  12. Ornette Coleman – Women of The Veil – Hidden Man (1996)
  13. Ornette Coleman – When Will The Blues Leave – Something Else!!!! The Music Of Ornette Coleman (1958)
  14. Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman – Song X – Song X (1985)
  15. Lou Reed – Guilty – The Raven (2003)
  16. Ornette Coleman – Street Woman – The Complete Science Fiction Sessions (1972)
  17. Jamaladeen Tacuma – Dancing In Your Head – Renaissance Man (1984)
  18. Geri Allen – Vertical Flowing – Eyes.. In The Back Of Your Head (1997)
  19. Ornette Coleman Quartet – Latin Genetics – In All Languages (1987)
  20. Joe Henry – Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation – Scar (2001)
  21. Ornette Coleman – Lonely Woman – Live at the Tivoli (1965)

NOTES

It’s probably foolish, and mostly impossible, to fully assess the impact Ornette Coleman had on jazz, and music in general.

His Wikipedia entry covers things pretty well and I won’t attempt to replicate it here. From a personal perspective what first attracted me to the man and his music was that at the outset people “in the know” thought it was not very good. Most times in music when I have been told something is rubbish I soon realise it is not to my ears. Even Miles Davis, in one of his usual taciturn outbursts described him as “all screwed up”, but you take everything Miles said with a large dollop of salt because things he generally bad mouthed he ended up absorbing and reflecting in his own musical development in the long run. There’s an excellent piece called The Battle of the Five Spot which describes how Ornette threw down the avant garde gauntlet to the jazz establishment, and which will tell you what you need to know about his impact on the scene in 1959 and throughout  his life thereafter. Somewhat ironically Ornette was given the Miles Davis award at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2009, should make for an interesting conversation at the great gig in the sky.

I only got to see him once, crammed into a small hall upstairs at Manchester Polytechnic with his Prime Time Band in the mid 80s. It was a fascinating evening and confirmed his importance as an innovator, musician and someone with the capacity to absorb and develop other musical forms.

You will see from the list of collaborators above that his impact and playing was appreciated across the jazz world and into rock and art. His legacy is a back catalogue of fascinating music and a the philosophical musical model called Harmolodics which is described as “the use of the physical and the mental of one’s own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group”. This polytonal and heterophonic approach defined much of Ornette’s music especially in his later works.

With a discography of 53 albums and many other side projects it’s impossible to cover the whole of the man’s career and I have left out one or two classic albums in the above playlist, Live at the Golden Circle notably, but I have tried to pick some of my favourites, some unique collaborations, and notable historical tunes.

Coleman died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 85 in New York City on June 11, 2015 – his legacy is massive and he will be sadly missed.

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