Essential New Music: Ornette Coleman And Various Artists’ “Celebrate Ornette”

Jamaaladeen Tacuma, an original member of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, once said that the saxophonist’s theory of harmolodics—a place where melody, harmony and rhythm are equal to and independent from each other, at once—“is a small glimpse of a natural, organic way of executing sound; where sound was more important than notes.” Harmolodics, then, is a lifestyle, one lived to its fullest by Coleman, son/drummer Denardo and their acolytes during a summer 2014 all-star concert held in Ornette’s honor at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, as well as at Coleman’s 2015 funeral. Featuring adventurous punks (Patti Smith, Nels Cline, Thurston Moore), experimental electronic musicians (Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Bill Laswell) and virtuosic crushers (Branford Marsalis, Cecil Taylor), no moment is more transformative than Ornette showing for his last-ever reverie. A surprise to all, Ornette came out with his white alto sax, waited, then hit the ground running with one 30-minute moment of blowing/dreaming/concentrating that pulled from his own bluesy past compositions “Ramblin’” and “Turnaround” to (proactively) mesmerize the already-hypnotized crowd with a high cutting wail.

—A.D. Amorosi

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