Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) + Saturday Uncertainty Series Live

As I was writing the paragraph at the bottom of this post, Twitter and Facebook (and other forms of media) began spreading the news of the passing of Ornette Coleman. The Texas native was one of several musicians who changed the face of Black American music in the mid-to-late 1950s, among them Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.  Like Mr. Rollins (his junior by 6 months) did on "Way Out West" (1957) and "Freedom Suite"(1958), Coleman dispensed with chordal instruments for his groundbreaking Atlantic recordings ("The Shape of Jazz to Come" and "Change of the Century" in 1959 and beyond).  His work with trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden (and later with Scott LaFaro), and drummers Billy Higgins ("..Shape of Jazz..") and Ed Blackwell ("Change..." and into the 1960s) continues to resonate n the world of improvised music.

Mr. Coleman went on the record for Blue Note Records (1965-68), Flying Dutchman, Impulse, Columbia Records (including the large ensemble work "Skies of America" in 1972) and then created his Prime Time "electric" band for Artists House in 1975 (although "Dancing In My Head" was not released until 1977).  In 1986, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette and Charlie Haden joined Mr. Coleman for "Song X" (credited to the guitarist and saxophonist), a critical and commercial success.  In the 1990s, Verve Records gave the saxophonist his own Harmolodic imprint and released 4 CDs in 3 years but it would be nearly a decade before Mr. Coleman released another album under his name.  "Sound Grammar", a live recording from 2005 but released in 2006, featured his son Denardo (drums) plus bassists Tony Falanga and Greg Cohen.  It was to be the last recording to be released, although it's not hard to imagine that there are not more sessions in the "vaults."

Ft Worth/Star Telegram
Through it all, Ornette Coleman never wavered in his forward motion. His tone on alto saxophone was influenced by the Texas Tenor tradition of the 1940s and 50s, meaning he was steeped in blues. In the 1960s, he took up trumpet and violin, teaching himself to play in his own "primitive" fashion.  He hired his son Denardo to be his drummer when the the younger Coleman was 10 years old - Denardo went on to play on many of his father's recordings and became his producer.

For a more thorough history and obituary, click on the following link:   Howard Mandel also contributes a fine obit on the site (click here). There is which holds out hope for new music but there is not much else.

On Saturday June 13, the Uncertainty Music Series presents Trevor Saint and Jonathan Zorn for 2 solo sets at 8 p.m. in the cozy environs of Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  Saint, who plays many different mallet instruments but especially the glockenspiel, will play pieces by Matt Sergeant, Amanda Schoofs, Christopher Burns and Jeff Herriott. Zorn, who attended Wesleyan University, studying with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton, will create a work for speech and electronics.

For more information, go to

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