Friday, 26 June 2015

Vale Ornette Coleman

Pioneering Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman has died, ages 85. He leaves behind a legacy as a boundary-pushing artist with an ever restless muse. He was a composer who, similar to Miles Davis or John Coltrane, never stood still for very long, in a creative sense.

His 1959 LP, possibly somewhat arrogant in title at the time, "The Shape of Jazz To Come" changed the rules for what Jazz could sound like. It was very divisive among critics at the time, but it turns out the title was rather prophetic. Then, in 1960, he broke the rule book of Jazz wide open with a collective improvisation piece for double quartet entitled "Free Jazz". "Free Jazz" is an album that does what it says on the tin: it is a free improv piece spread out across two sides of an LP (37 minutes in total).

For a man who was hailed as such an innovator, he was also derided in some circles by those who really should know better. It would appear if you were to push the boundaries of jazz to its ultimate limit (i.e having as fewer rules as possible) then that negates the value of any future work, according to some. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Ornette's music removed the emphasis on rhythm and melody and gave equal weight to both, thus de-emphasising them. It's a hard concept to get one's head around, but it creates music that is both fascinating and challenging. Thankfully Jazz is a style that can both support and tolerate such a musical innovation, when several other styles would collapse in a fit of noise.

Thankfully, all the albums are there to appreciate and it's worth taking the time to appreciate the man's works once more. Vale Ornette.

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