Sunday, March 19, 2006


Many happy returns to Ornette Coleman, who reaches the big seven-six today. He must be one of the very few major-league jazz pioneers who is still alive - Sonny Rollins is the only other that I can immediately think of.

I went to see him at the Barbican last year, and he was stunning. I figured beforehand that his particular brand of screeching dissonance might get boring if I was sober, so I had three quick red wines at the bar before the gig started (though, since it was at the Barbican, I suppose it was a concert rather than a gig) and two more at the interval. This strategy worked a treat - it was literally one of the most exhilerating concerts I have ever been to. Ornette was dressed all in white, wore a white porkpie hat, played a white toy saxophone, and occasionally switched to a white violin. He had two - count them - double bassists, one plucked, one bowed, and his son Denardo on drums.

I don't think I consciously recognised many of the songs, but that is hardly the point with Ornette Coleman's music. A lot of it was virtually white noise, though Joe Zawinul's description of Ornette's music - where "nobody solos and everybody solos" - defines it better.

I also bumped into a 75 year old relative during the interval - now you wouldn't get that at an Arctic Monkeys gig.

So, your task for this week is to try out Ornette Coleman - you won't go far wrong with his first few CDs from the late 50s and 60s (The Shape of Jazz To Come, for example, or This is our Music), though I am also a big fan of his most recent album, Tone Dialling, from 1995.

Today is also Sir Ian Blair's birthday. He is 53. Another day closer to death, Ian...


Blogger minifig said...

hi paddingotn. i'm glad to see that you now have a blog of your own - I shall have to look a little closer at some point when I have more time...

7:23 PM  
Blogger Snowball said...

Great blog, Paddington.

There seems to be a theme emerging with respect to the Arctic Monkeys though - did you have a bad experience?

9:15 PM  
Blogger Comandante Gringo said...

Ornette Coleman is definitely an acquired taste...

In my musical universe, I gauge the aural sophistication of "jazz lovers" by their stance toward the likes of Coleman ("Ornette Who..?"). There's a local jazz station I barely tolerated for a while (the campus stations have been much better with their jazz programming; however I only listen to Internet radio these days); but besides their relentless Rightwing slant to their target audience of stock-jobbers and white-collar pseudo-sophisticates -- including eulogies to the mass-murderer Ronald Reagan when he died -- I soon decided that I couldn't and wouldn't take their narrow definition of what "jazz" was... In other words: they wouldn't be caught dead programming Ornette Coleman, or any of that other "free-form" dissonant stuff...

Some jazz professionals.
I'm so much happier with my choice.

(Zawinul is one of my heroes too -- even though the one time I saw Weather Report live, Wayne Shorter was behaving like a prima donna and they sucked canal-water big-time. I still want my money back!)

9:06 PM  

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