Ornette Coleman: Ramblin’

9 Mar

ornette coleman

Ornette Coleman's This Is Our Music

Birthday greetings to saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who celebrates No. 81 today.

You can listen to traditional jazz outlets — say, Sirius’ Real Jazz — and hear all the Coltrane, Bird, Miles, Dizzy, Sonny you’d ever hope for. Or Freddie Hubbard or Bud Powell or Dexter Gordon. Ornette? Not so much. You can go a long time without a note of Ornette.

We’re not sure why that is, or whether it’s more than anecdotal evidence, or whether it’s because of Ornette’s style, or the “free” jazz his music was called — a term he didn’t like nearly as much as the music. But the reception is not novel to Coleman. He grew up in Texas before integration. And according to Nat Hentoff’s liner notes to Something Else! The Music of Ornette Coleman, Coleman worked for two and a half years as an elevator operator in the midst of his career. Quite a welcome.

Today he wins praise and honors, from the Pulitzer Prize to a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement to honorary college degrees. His most famous quartet included Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell, all of whom deserved their own fame and prestige.

“. . . a little about the music called jazz,” wrote Coleman on the liner notes to This Is Our Music. “First it’s the player. In classical music, it’s the composer. In jazz the composer is needed also, but it is the player who makes jazz so invaluable.”

We’re not sure if he was talking about himself, but he sure could have been.

Below a link to Ramblin’, from 1959’s Change of the Century.


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