Tag Archives: ornette coleman

Sonny Rollins Talks John Coltrane

It’s Newk’s birthday – number 81. Today it was announced that he’s part of the next Kennedy Center Honors. Next week, the second edition of his Road Shows disc will be released. It contains a chunk of last year’s 80th birthday show at the Beacon, the one that had him connecting with Ornette Coleman. You can hear it right now on NPR. I wrote a DownBeat piece on that night and the following days. But to celebrate Rollins’ current birthday, I dug into an personal archive that found musicians speaking on Coltrane. It was for a mid-80s piece published in Musician magazine. Here’s Newk talking about his pal:

John came into the “Tenor Madness” session by accident; he just happened to be at the date. He had his horn and someone suggested it. In those days, guys just kind of hung out together. I first met him in Miles Davis’ band. He had a big reputation preceding him around New York. The idea of two tenors tangling was a media hype – it always is. It goes back to the big band horn battles. But it was overdone; John and I were close personal friends, and the music was paramount. Saxophone battles and all that didn’t add up to much. We were into developing ideas and finding applications for them.

I first heard him in a band with Kenny Clarke. I remember very well. John and Kenny – it was fantastic. And I recall thinking that John was a puzzle. I could never figure out how he arrived at, or how he came up with, what he played. It was one of the things that made him unique. I never got a better fix on it through the years. Like any genius, it’s hard to get a handle on how they come up with their ideas.

His influence was pervasive. It’s inevitable to have influences. Any guy who’s that much into music is bound to be listening heavily to someone before them…like I did with Coleman Hawkins. The individuality will come out if it’s there. It depends whether the player can transcend the influence. To play what we call modern music, you’d have to have some antecedents.

A musician like Trane shouldn’t be judged in terms of his “early” or “late” work; there was value in all of it. I liked it all. It was all Trane. The best band was with McCoy and Elvin. He went through a lot of musicians to get that band together. He’d compare notes with others, talk about different players. I liked a piece called “I’ll Wait And Pray,” and of course I felt very happy about “Like Sonny.”  A Love Supreme was important because it came at a time when the group was crystalizing its extended works. It had certain spiritual implications, ideas Trane was interested in. I heard it said he was a “political” saxophonist, but it would be impossible to know what was in his mind at the time, politics or no. If anything, his playing was making a statement about religious ideas. But there’s no question the ’60s were full of turmoil. If you wanted to take some of his music and say, “Well, this shows he was angry,” I guess you could. But they called me that, too. How much of it was really true is open for debate. Did he consciously say, “I want to be a political player”? Can’t say for sure. To me he was just a musician playing. But remember, every black musician is automatically political. You can’t help being political if you’re black in the United States; it’s a fait accompli.

Lockjaw Davis recommended John to play tenor. He had been playing alto beforehand. When he went to soprano, I wasn’t surprised. Steve Lacy was the only one who was doing it at the time. John had that sound on tenor, though. You could tell it was him instantly. When you were around him you felt like you were with a genius. A genius and a serious, energetic player. He had a sense of humor, but he was serious. His humor wasn’t about cracking jokes. He was more droll, or wry. Almost like a minister, a minister of music.

Ted Panken has a couple wonderful interviews with Sonny.

Lloyd Sachs has some great quotes, too. 

Fathers Day in Jazzville

Must be a treat to play music with a parent. In this case, a dad. A recent Facebook chat with a pal reminded me of seeing Dewey and Joshua Redman share a stage at a jazz fest outside Boston back in the late ’80s. I believe it was the first time I’d ever heard Josh play live (also heard him play last night, as fate would have it). There are several sons who have chosen to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, and several of them have had the opportunity to work together with their dads. Here are 10 of ’em. Hats off to those who are furthering the family tradition. 

1. Ornette and Denardo Coleman,  The Empty Foxhole  

2. Joe and Mat ManeriThree Men Walking 

3. Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and and Ellis Marsalis 

4. Dewey and Joshua Redman

5. Jackie and Rene MacLean 

6. Bucky & John Pizzarelli

7. Von & Chico Freeman

8. Dave & Darius and Chris Brubeck

9. John & Ravi Coltrane

10. Thelonious Monk & Thelonious Monk Jr.



Lovano On Coleman 

“If I hadn’t checked out Ornette, I wouldn’t have been ready to play with Paul Motian. You have to have an open mind to create form within the music rather than repeat a structure. Ornette opened the door to create the form, the orchestration, as you played.” – late 80s, Fort Greene

Three Song Set: Hurley, Coleman, Orleans

Here are three pieces I can’t seem to leave behind.

Ornette’s Birthday, Biggie’s Death Day

It’s one of those Hello/Goodbye deals. WKCR is rocking OC all aft.  Here’s a sweet Biggie interview and some other Notorious shizzle.

Sonny Rollins On Ornette & Birthday Bash

He really had the power flowing at the Beacon Theater back in September. Guess that footage of his confluence with Ornette isn’t coming back to YouTube anytime soon.  Oh well, this clip from the North Sea Fest throws some punches, too. Here’s my DownBeat interview with the master. He’s glowing when he gets to describing OC’s sound and the duties of an artist to move forward.

Harmolodic Hat-Tip

Seems like Ornette is in the air a lot these days. Musicians like Gregg August and J.D. Allen talking about the informal sessions the maestro has been having at his home, the arrival of the icon at the Sonny Rollins birthday show (“I was full of joy when he came out,” Newk told me the other day, “any time I hear him it’s a good experience”) and plenty of young cats like Noah Preminger turning to tunes such as “Law Years” and “Street Woman” (the young tenor player Facebook’d the message “Ornette’s Science Fiction should be the new bible. End of story.” on Friday).

To my mind, that’s how it should be. Investigations of OC’s canon are always welcome. For the last two nights, Jimmy Katz has curated a tip of the hat to Ornette at the Jazz Gallery. Tonight’s show is the last of of the presentation, with Nasheet Waits (with pianist Stanley Cowell, y’all) and Joe Lovano‘s Super Sonix group (Cameron Brown and Joey Baron) taking it home. I’ll throw $5 in the tip jar if JoeLo dives into “European Echoes,” one of my fave OC trio nuggets. And I’ll thank everyone in advance, especially Katz, for the fun.

Dude In The Balcony Preserves History

Top Five Things I Loved About Ornette’s Walk-On

1. The Vamping The Trio Had To Do – Christian later said it was one long stroll.

2. OC’s Gait – Innocent schoolboy body language.

3. The Kissing of the Ring – Ornette is all about manners.

4. The Fact That The Key Didn’t Matter One Whit – Harmolodics, y’all.

5. Tone Dialing: OC sounds bittersweet while SR sounds joyous – a great mix.

Only bummer about the above clip is it misses Rollins’ verbal invitation for Ornette to join them on stage. Bet that shows up soon…

Top Five Jazz Moments Of The Last 72 Hours

Jackying: Terrasson Times Two (Jazz Standard)

Hand independence is an asset for drummers and pianists alike, but leading his new trio of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, the keyboard dervish reminded just how deeply helpful skills in this arena can be. During “My Church” from the new Push, he set up a rumination in the lower register, and did an attractively dissonant dance up the keys to the right. Once there, he developed a fantasia that seemingly had little to do with the overall action at hand – save the fact that was both fascinating and provocative. Indeed, it was like a fourth member had been brought into the band. In a terrific set, it was an extended moment that almost beat the fact that he had also managed to turn “Smile” into a symphony.

Noah Preminger Toys Around With Ornette (Puppets)

It was the tenor saxophonist’s birthday, so he grabbed some pals – trumpeter Russ Johnson and guitarist Ben Monder among them – and bounced through a handful of tunes at the Brooklyn bar. When he got to Coleman‘s playful ditty (don’t mistake it with “Joy Of A Toy”) he was Deweying what came naturally: bending the melody to widen the playing field, picking up on all the anxious accents that drummer Diego Voglino was feeding him, and actively mixing the sweetness of Coleman’s music with some rougher textural gambits. New York is now, indeed.

Steve Cardenas Throws a Lasso Around Pop (Jazz Standard)

It might be just me, but I hear a few cowpoke echoes in “Roundup,” a gleefully idiosyncratic tune from the guitarist’s new West of Middle. When he, drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Ben Allison twirled their way through it on stage, those echoes were accentuated, and the power of generating simple melodies began to blossom. Cardenas’s improvs are catchy as hell; he moves from one statement to the next, and every developmental juncture boasts a handful of phrases that could stand as their own songs.  It’s a tack parallels the heads that dominate the disc. Attractive and clear, “Spindle” and “Drifter” and “Burt” make a case for a songbook that moves away from Hancock and Shorter harmonic labyrinths, and towards Rollins and Rowles melody fields. In his own recent work, Allison, too, has been mining such ground. It’s one of the most refreshing strategies currently simmering in jazz.

John Hebert Breaks Out The Bow (55 Bar)

Ellery Eskelin, Tyshawn Sorey and the ubiquitous bassist were already rolling when I walked into the room, and Hebert was wringing some pointilistic abstraction from way up his instrument’s neck. Eskelin was surfing; the continous wave of graceful expressionism coming from his horn wasn’t letting up. All of a sudden the mood of the room changed. Sorey strolled, and the bassist was providing his own luscious drone to parallel the leader. He sustained one particular tone for a good chunk of time, and the consistency it brought to the table balanced the squall and provided a balm.  Impressive, but perhaps not surprising. Hebert’s full of inventive moves every time you catch him.

Stephan Crump’s Sigh After Sigh (Jazz Gallery)

Hey dissonance devotees, there ain’t nothing wrong with pretty music, and when it’s as enchanting as the stuff the bassist has fashioned for his Rosetta Trio’s new Reclamation, it’s pretty much irresistible. The gentle interplay of Liberty Ellman‘s acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox‘s electric guitar was all about lyrical exchange, and mixed with Crump’s inquisitive  music it took on an odd juxtaposition: pleasantry after pleasantry wafted by, but the meaty nature of the interplay n sustained itself throughout.  It was 90 or so degrees out, and the gossamer aspects of the performance were absorbed by the entire room. Everyone needs Reclamation for their early-evening soundtrack this summer. Here they are on The Checkout.

It’s A Good Day To Whistle “Latin Genetics”

Happy 80th to Ornette! WKCR is rolling through the Coleman canon today. Wish he’d perform and record a bit more often; tomorrow is the question. Just rolled through a couple transcriptions of my ancient interviews with him, and this quote leaped out. He’s speaking of his work in New York circa ’67.

“I don’t think people thought I knew how to read or write music because of the way I improvised, which got tagged as free jazz. I’m not against that title, but it doesn’t tell anyone anything because the word “free” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. “

Here’s an insightful Francis Davis essay on OC. And if you want to read a sweet synopsis of the bandleader’s initial impact, check the OC chapter of Fred Kaplan’s 1959: The Year Everything Changed. This is Michael Jarrett speaking with Ornette. Here he is chatting with Rhapsody.

I, Jukebox: My 15 Favorite Ornette pieces (today).

“Blues Connotation” – This Is Our Music

“Just For You” – The Art of the Improvisers

“Mob Job” – Song X

“Law Years” – Science Fiction

“Chippie” – Something Else!!!

“Air Ship” – Of Human Feelings

“European Echoes” – Live at the Golden Circle, Vol I

“Check Out Time” – Love Call

“Kathelin Gray” – Song X

“Monk And the Nun” – Twins

“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” – Soapsuds, Soapsuds

“Feet Music” – In All Languages

“Chanting” – Virgin Beauty

“Macho Woman” – Body Meta

“T & T” – Ornette!