The profound impact of Ornette Coleman can be seen in the reactions of the music world to his passing.
By J. R. Carroll
Only a handful of individuals can truly be said to have altered the course of music. The world woke up yesterday to news of the loss of one of them (see Michael Ullman’s tribute here in the Arts Fuse), and took to Twitter to express their reactions:
— Bang on a Can (@bangonacan) June 11, 2015
Good night, Ornette http://t.co/jPwS9A9tG3
— Eric Poppa Reed (@EricScottReed) June 11, 2015
Been offline all morning, and this is what I’ve missed? Nope. Can’t process this. Disbelieving. Dumbstruck.
— Nate Chinen (@natechinen) June 11, 2015
If the day was not sad enough already. Thank you Mr. Ornette Coleman for your contributions to American culture. http://t.co/Mcy2vmuYat
— Matt Wilson (@mattwilsonjazz) June 11, 2015
Sad day.. 🙁 A true innovator (not self-proclaimed) and genius who marched to the beat of his own “drum”,… http://t.co/IvdpY3kgeo
— E.J. Strickland (@EJ_Strickland) June 11, 2015
Rest In Peace to the legendary #OrnetteColeman. He was a true artist and innovator. Much love and respect. Thanks for your beauty, Ornette.
— The Soul Rebels (@SoulRebelsNOLA) June 11, 2015
Ornette Coleman’s been gallantly battling illness for quite sometime. He now belongs to the ages. RIP to a titan. http://t.co/S0hjBgHRf4
— Christian McBride (@mcbridesworld) June 11, 2015
The Shape of Jazz That Was; Change of Last Century; New York is Past! [RIP Ornette Coleman]
— Ethan Iverson (@ethan_iverson) June 11, 2015
With the passing of Ornette Coleman we give thanks for the life and work of a major innovator and 100% original. He was a big inspiration.
— Dave Holland (@TheDaveHolland) June 11, 2015
ORNETTE ALL DAY ALL LIFE pic.twitter.com/pSB9qp7275
— Jason Moran (@morethan88) June 11, 2015
Farewell to a master creator, Ornette Coleman. Thank you for all that you gave to the world. Here… https://t.co/Rk3tbIijWS
— vijay iyer (@vijayiyer) June 11, 2015
Yours will always be the shape of jazz to come. Ornette Coleman. RIP.
— Joshua Redman (@Joshua_Redman) June 11, 2015
The Shape Of Jazz To Come…….has gone. Rest in Peace….Be Free… Ornette Coleman pic.twitter.com/IY6WKXNtva
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) June 11, 2015
— Ben Allison (@benallisonmusic) June 11, 2015
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) June 11, 2015
Beauty is a rare thing. And always missed. Goodbye Mr. Ornette Coleman. https://t.co/gTU7vYSYrl
— Ken Vandermark (@kenvandermark) June 11, 2015
RIP musical titan Ornette Coleman who created, explored, defined and perfected free jazz.
— Tom Morello (@tmorello) June 11, 2015
— Nat’l Endow f/t Arts (@NEAarts) June 11, 2015
RIP Ornette Coleman
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) June 11, 2015
— NY Philharmonic (@nyphil) June 11, 2015
— Joe Lovano (@joelovano) June 11, 2015
— Jared Sims (@jaredsims) June 10, 2015
Today the great Ornette Coleman has passed over. His influence was enormous and I am really grateful to have had… http://t.co/1jlkt2cpzA
— Jack DeJohnette (@DeJohnetteMusic) June 11, 2015
Farewell, Ornette. Thank you for the courage, the mystery, and the beauty.
— Darcy James Argue (@darcyjamesargue) June 11, 2015
— JazzatLincolnCenter (@jazzdotorg) June 12, 2015
Ornette, so profoundly grateful, you changed everything for me:https://t.co/0eNX3RTzvv
— Myra Melford (@MyraMelford) June 12, 2015
Ornette, stay well, wherever you are! Remember the fun times we had in Paris and London! I’ll see you again, whenever… love, yoko
— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) June 12, 2015
As the news broke yesterday, the media weighed in. Here are some of the more insightful articles:
Ornette Coleman, the alto saxophonist and jazz innovator, dies at 85 http://t.co/8y5lXZ9ixb
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 11, 2015
— nprmusic (@nprmusic) June 11, 2015
— Peter Hum (@peterhum) June 11, 2015
— Marc Myers (@JazzWax) June 11, 2015
First time hearing Ornette I nearly left 20 min in – in an hour he’d changed my life. RIP gentle genius – my obit @ http://t.co/iFmH7O9QiZ
— John Fordham (@jfordham_jazz) June 11, 2015
— Richard Williams (@rwilliams1947) June 11, 2015
— David A. Graham (@GrahamDavidA) June 11, 2015
— Ted Gioia (@tedgioia) June 11, 2015
Rest in peace, Ornette Coleman, one of the most important jazz visionaries. Read our interview from 2007: http://t.co/XxXfDlELoh
— Wax Poetics (@waxpoetics) June 11, 2015
NEW DTM: Ornette http://t.co/FmYdO6nnQ9
— Ethan Iverson (@ethan_iverson) June 11, 2015
— Observer (@observer) June 11, 2015
Here is our in-depth obituary to Ornette Coleman, who died this morning. http://t.co/HpedGrKARt
— JazzTimes Magazine (@JazzTimes) June 11, 2015
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) June 11, 2015
Ornette Coleman: “To me, free is not a style. It’s a personal ability. Playing free is not having to have a style.” http://t.co/xy4TqXKy9w
— DownBeat Magazine (@DownBeatMag) June 12, 2015
— KQED Arts (@KQEDarts) June 12, 2015
Living Colour’s Vernon Reid pays tribute to Ornette Coleman: “He set a lot of people free”: http://t.co/DrVuIkJ9Wi
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) June 12, 2015
Brian Morton pays tribute to Ornette Coleman who died yesterday aged 85: http://t.co/oMkrGBijBY
— The Wire Magazine (@thewiremagazine) June 12, 2015
— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) June 12, 2015
For the sound of Ornette’s own words and music, radio takes the lead:
— WGBH News (@wgbhnews) June 11, 2015
Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Innovator Ornette Coleman http://t.co/r9xZPjm8J6
— Fresh Air (@nprfreshair) June 12, 2015
Ornette Coleman Radio: @WKCRjazz is playing Ornette’s music around the clock through Wednesday.
— Richard Scheinin (@RichardScheinin) June 11, 2015
In My bed listening @WKCRFM in NY playing Ornette Coleman’s music nonstop 24/7 until July 17 th!! Tune in its a beautiful deep journey xx
— Neneh Cherry (@misscherrylala) June 11, 2015
Tune in to the Ornette Coleman Memorial Broadcast on WKCR 89.9 FM and online at http://t.co/HJ1ldMjUOv. Non-stop Coleman!
— WKCR Jazz (@WKCRjazz) June 12, 2015
A few personal observations:
- My introduction to Ornette was the pair of Live at the “Golden Circle” albums recorded in Stockholm in the mid-60s. Against the backdrop of the escalating war in Vietnam, the track “The Empty Foxhole,” with Ornette on trumpet, made a powerful impression (strengthened, perhaps, by its echoes—in my perception—of The Unanswered Question by Charles Ives, whose music I made acquaintance with around the same time).
- I’m struck by the number of personal stories of transformative encounters with Ornette Coleman (including the Arts Fuse’s Michael Ullman’s recollection of Ornette’s visit to Tufts University). Despite his reputation for inscrutability, it’s remarkable how many individuals had eye- and ear-opening (and even life-changing) encounters with this polite and generous man.
- On a couple of occasions I’ve heard radio tributes to Ornette that relied on audio clips from his Free Jazz album. Iconic as this recording is, having cemented its title as the de facto definition of Ornette’s music (and of those who followed in his path), brief chunks of audio can be very confusing due to the simple fact that what is heard is two quartets—one led by Ornette, the other by Eric Dolphy—sometimes interacting and sometimes proceeding independently. For the uninitiated, the presence of these two giants can be befuddling; their styles and musical conceptions are unmistakably different, but I can imagine for a newcomer it may be difficult to discern the one from the other. Better, then, to draw on the classic Coleman Quartet of the early 60s for audio examples.
- Finally, with all due respect to the late Sir Christopher Lee, I’m simply not on board with the all-too-numerous comments that seem to equate a musical giant like Ornette Coleman to an actor—let’s be honest here—who made his name as a B-movie vampire. Just sayin’.
Thank You To Everyone For The Outpouring Of Love There Will Never Be Another ORNETTE COLEMAN pic.twitter.com/ZzI2ZcZO1w
— Denardo Coleman (@denardocoleman) June 11, 2015