dimecres, 10 de juny de 2009
Ornette Coleman (homenatge als ancestres)
Mister Anything Goes
He's taken jazz where it has never gone before - playing with pipers, punks and divas. As Ornette Coleman arrives in Britain, Patti Smith, Moby and others salute a great. By John Lewis
* John Lewis
* The Guardian, Wednesday 10 June 2009
* Article history
Ornette Coleman at the 40th Montreux Jazz festival in Montreux in 2006
Ornette Coleman at the Montreux Jazz festival. Photograph: Dominic Favre/Reuters
Born in Texas 79 years ago, saxophonist Ornette Coleman came to the jazz world's attention in the late 1950s with a brand of free improvisation that thrilled and shocked audiences in equal measure. At early gigs, he was physically attacked by disgruntled punters. Miles Davis called him "unlistenable", and Philip Larkin said his music was "like 20 monkeys trying to type the plays of Shakespeare".
1. Meltdown, curated by Ornette Coleman
2. Southbank Centre,
1. Starts 12 June
2. Until 21 June
Eventually, many acknowledged that his playing was actually highly melodic and deeply informed by the blues - but by then Coleman's music had moved on. Over the last four decades, he has been joined by symphony orchestras, Chinese erhu players, Sufi singers, opera divas, rappers, Irish pipers, punk guitarists, Yoko Ono and, in his last London appearance, a band that included not one but three bass players. One 1990s tour saw Coleman joined on stage by a fakir, who carried out a ritual body-piercing.
Self-taught, Coleman developed his own revolutionary approach to improvisation, which he called "harmolodics", a system that no one, least of all Coleman, seems able to explain. He has long brought untutored musicians into his bands: in 1966, he enlisted Denardo, his 10-year-old son, as a drummer. "I want to remove the caste system from music," he said. "It's about questioning how certain sounds are privileged above others."
Coleman has been an inspiration for many. The Grateful Dead and Yoko Ono collaborated with him; Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce formed the rock group Cream to recreate his sound ("with Eric Clapton playing the role of Ornette," says Baker, "although neither of us told Eric this"). Ian Dury's anthem Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll was based on one of his songs; while Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop, the MC5 and Sonic Youth have all paid tribute to him.
This month, Coleman curates the Meltdown festival at London's Southbank Centre, following such previous incumbents as Jarvis Cocker, David Bowie and Morrissey. Coleman's programme is characteristically wide-ranging, with many of his erstwhile colleagues (Charlie Haden, James Blood Ulmer, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Ono) joined by wildcard choices (the Roots, Moby, Baaba Maal, Mike Patton of Faith No More, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers). But why is he such an inspirational figure? We asked musicians and former collaborators what Coleman's music means to them.
I've been obsessed with Ornette ever since my friends and I formed a jazz club at school in the 1960s to play our records to each other. Listening to him taught me a lot about improvisation, about music as a form of spiritual commune. I carry his work everywhere, in particular his soundtrack to The Naked Lunch. This is music that conjures up words, poetry, portals to another dimension.
A couple of years back, I met him for the first time in Bologna in Italy, in a pizzeria. He was playing at an opera house and invited me along. In the middle of his set, I was beckoned on to the stage. I went up and improvised a poem. There was no fear: he opens the door and he's completely compassionate. As you enter his world, you feel his confidence, enthusiasm and sense of wonder. Ornette is like a genius - and a child - in the way he approaches music. Part of his appeal to people in the world of rock and punk is that he doesn't require you to be a complex musician. He just requires that you listen, communicate and play with feeling.
As a student, I would go to the occasional avant-garde concert featuring some unlistenable 12-tone composer. A lot of the time, you'd want to go home and listen to Abba, just to cleanse your palate. Plenty of experimental musicians are challenging in desperately uncompelling ways, but not Ornette. His music is melodic, direct, soulful and often very funny. He is never dull, always committed to change and growth. That's incredibly inspiring to any artist.
Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam
I had dinner with Ornette a few years ago. This beautiful, humble man told us remarkable stories about his remarkable life. After we'd eaten our main course, we ordered more wine and some sorbet. Ornette poured his wine into his dessert and said: "Ever had red wine and raspberry sorbet?" I said: "Er, no." And he said: "Neither have I!" I think that sums him up. He might be in his late 70s, but that was probably the sixth or seventh new thing he tried that day.
Joanna MacGregor, classical pianist
I've listened to his 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come all my life. I first saw him live 20 years ago. I was knocked out. I've since seen him live about 10 times now, and it's always emotional. He has the ability to be fantastically new and cutting edge, while remaining soulful and melodic. Free music is often filled with a few good bits and lots of dull bits, but Ornette is never dull. I love hearing him with very busy bass and drums. He rides over the top, like a dolphin leaping over these huge waves.
Robert Wyatt, singer-songwriter
He wrote such good tunes, didn't he? They seemed baffling to some bebop musicians in the 1950s, because of his cavalier disregard for chord changes - but all those pithy, rocking little tunes like Rambling and Blues Connection are so strong. I've never found him difficult or cerebral. In many ways, he's quite traditional, an avant-gardist who isn't afraid to look back to older forms of jazz.
His soloing is very conversational and it made his music very human, very accessible. I met him once, when my band Soft Machine played New York in 1968. He was wonderfully courteous and hospitable; I remember shaking with excitement on the way to his apartment. To us atheists, these are the true gods!
Pat Metheny, guitarist
There's no compromise with Ornette - you have to go into his yard to play.When we recorded the 1986 album Song X together, we wanted to make something unlike anything either of us had done before. I think we created something unique. He is one of the most beautiful souls on the planet, a truly gentle person as funny as he is deep. But I don't think I ever got to understand "harmolodics". When musicians talk about it like they know what it means, I listen warily. When a critic does, you can be sure he's full of it.
Larry Stabbins, saxophonist, Stonephace, Working Week
The saxophone is a hybrid, a cross between brass and woodwind, which is why it appealed to jazz musicians. They were always trying to overcome its limitations and faults. What I love about Ornette is that he exploits all its deficiencies. He used to play this terrible little plastic saxophone - but he created such a compelling sound, with such strong melodies, it didn't matter.
Ira Kaplan, Yo la Tengo
Many years ago, when I started buying jazz albums, I bought his The Art of the Improvisers. I tried, but couldn't find a way into it. Years later, I heard This Is Our Music. It was like a lighbulb coming on. From that point on, I sought out everything he'd made. I love the excitement, the sense of anything being possible, the raw emotion, the playfulness and commitment to melody. We can all learn from him
Bill Frisell, guitarist
I bought a Best of Ornette Coleman when I left school. There's enough on it to last a lifetime. His music is like a kaleidoscope opening up in your mind. I've met him a few times, but was astonished when he invited me over to his apartment earlier this year. The first time, we talked; the second time, we played together. It was incredible. He suggested playing a basic blues - and we played for about 45 minutes. Everything I did, he found something that fitted it perfectly. Being asked to play at his Meltdown is the biggest honour I can think of.
Pete Wareham, saxophonist, Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear
It's the sound of his alto sax that's so compelling: it's somewhere between a human voice and a distorted electric guitar. That's possibly why he's so popular with punks. I find some of his more obvious "fusion" stuff, with Prime Time, less interesting. It's a bit cluttered, too many instruments. I prefer it when he's just playing with drums and bass underneath simple, direct lines. Unlike many jazz musicians, he writes fantastic melodies - proving that free music doesn't have to be bloodcurdling noise.