Wednesday, July 04, 2007

04 juillet, 2007

Happy Fourth of July everyone!
I am celebrating America's birthday by listening to a true American original -- ORNETTE COLEMAN.
He was one of the most polarizing figures in jazz history, but in hindsight it's difficult to see what all the fuss was about.
Jon Pareles in the New York Times in 1985:
"At jam sessions 30 years ago, musicians would walk off the bandstand when Ornette Coleman came onstage. They complained that he couldn't play in tune or in time, that he didn't fit in."
Coleman alienated many jazz fans in the 1950s and 60s by dispensing with conventional harmonics and structure. Instead, he focused on the interaction between improvising players.
As Ashley Kahn (one of my favorite jazz writers) once wrote:
"Coleman burst on to the national scene in 1959 and split the jazz world in two. He was accused of arbitrarily breaking the rules of jazz when he was actually returning to a point when jazz had fewer rules."
I say point well taken. Listen to Coleman play with Don Cherry and his other cohorts, and to me it sounds like a slower but similar approach taken by many of the Dixieland combos of the early days of jazz. Then, collective improvisation ruled the day. Framework was not as important as melody.
Pareles again:
"Through the years, Mr. Coleman has been praised, scorned and ignored. Yet his bluesy, asymmetrical saxophone solos, his infectious compositions and his 'harmolodic theory' of music have influenced and galvanized musicians from John Coltrane to Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny to Yoko Ono."
Some critics complained the Coleman and fellow avant-gardists ruined jazz, or at least their comfortable concept of "jazz."
George Hoefer recorded the reaction of many people to Coleman's 1959 residency at New York's Five Spot:
"Some walked in and out before they could finish a drink."

I think saying Coleman ruined jazz is like saying Jackson Pollock ruined painting.
It's ludicrous.
My journalistic hero Ralph J. Gleason wrote that the members of the jazz avant-garde "went out and made music that broke all the rules except that art must be true to beauty and to the creative spark and to truth."
Coleman and his groundbreaking brethren showed the importance of stretching boundaries, of continuing exploration in the face of adversity, or venerating personal expression and of prizing originality.
Isn't that what America is supposed to be about?


Post a Comment

<< Home