Tutorials

Ornette Coleman

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,362
Location
leicester
I've been rereading this fascinating interview with pianist Paul Bley and his observations about playing with Ornette at the Hillcrest club in Los Angeles are interesting
Bill Smith : imagine the sound: PAUL BLEY


"The Hillcrest Club was a club on Washington Boulevard, which is in the black section of Los Angeles, right in the middle of it. That area had a tradition of live performance. Les McCann played our Monday night jam sessions. When I arrived in Los Angeles after a long college tour with a trio that I brought from New York we added the vibraphone player, Dave Pike, and went into the Hillcrest Club and stayed roughly close to two years; six nights a week. (This is the band that made the record Solemn Meditation). And over that period of time some of the players went back east and were replaced. Billy Higgins replaced Lennie McBrowne, Charlie Haden replaced Hal Gaylor, the Montreal bassist.
One night Billy Higgins said, “a friend of mine, Don Cherry, brought a saxophone player and wants to sit in”. I normally never let anybody sit in, we sent them all to Monday night and gave them to Les McCann, but because it was somebody in the band and they almost never made any recommendations for somebody to sit in we said “no problem”. After playing one set with them Charlie and I went out in the back yard and had a confrontation. We said. “Look, we have been working in this club for a long time and most probably could stay here as long as we wanted. If we fire Dave Pike and hire Don and Ornette we won’t last the week. We’ll be lucky to last the night. What shall we do?” And we looked at each other and said — “Fire Dave Pike!” (Laughter)
Well a good relationship with the owner allowed us to stay another three or four weeks on that job. It was historically amazing. And socially, in the club it was hilarious. Look at the situation. A quartet that is a house band, very successful in a club, making money for the club, all of a sudden changes its policy and hire’s two horn players in place of a vibist. The music in 1957 was certainly a lot more dramatic and revolutionary than Albert Ayler when he first came out, and he created a tremendous stir. It was really similar to some jokes, I’ve told jokes about it. When you were driving down Washington Boulevard and you looked at the Hillcrest Club you always knew whether the band was on the bandstand or not. If the street was full of audience in front of the club, the band was playing.
Every set we’d go up and we’d play and the club would totally empty out, they’d leave their drinks on the bar and everything. Totally empty out, it’s socially possible in California, there’s warm weather and it’s very friendly there. So everyone would be out on the street. And as soon as the band stopped they would all come back in and drink, talk and shout and be happy and be merry and then we’d go back on and they would empty out and wait on the street. They really loved the place, loved the band. Loved what they thought the band used to be. That’s what the situation was.
Musically it was incredible. Ornette had a bag of compositions that was so deep that we rehearsed every day of the job for the three weeks or the month of the job. Every single afternoon all day. And every night we played an entire new book from the night before. So, I’d say ten or twenty new tunes were added to the band’s repertoire daily. That’s a rate of growth that’s stimulating to say the least.
From a musical point of view it was extremely stimulating.
I told the class yesterday at the university that all you’ll ever be hired for as an artist, as a musician, is your judgement. When you hit one note, the next note starts involving your judgement. We talked about personal habits and things like that to improve your judgement. Well, who you play with is certainly important. Who you think plays well, who you think can offer you something. All these decisions. Geographical decisions, musical decisions. They’re all judgement, over and over and over again.
Up until the time that those two fellows had sat in with this group, there had been a great deal of thought as to how to break the bondage of chord structures over meter. Ornette was so early that Coltrane was an interim step which coexisted with Ornette, whereas historically it should have preceded Ornette......
think the shock of Ornette was much more severe because bebop didn’t use micro-tonality. You were just talking about a new arrangement of well tempered notes. When Ornette introduced the idea of erasure phrases, where you’d have some phrases that were tonal and well tempered and then some phrases that were deliberately meant so that there was no way you could transcribe this onto paper easily. Then the music was suspect. That interfered with the enjoyment or the evaluation of the music. The technical ability was suspect. If Ornette had not been a composer, it would have taken him a great deal longer to get those erudite critics, who by the way performed a yeoman service in quickly identifying Ornette’s validity to the sceptics, the New York musicians who were sceptical. It was the critics who did more than their job of acquainting the public with the music. They acquainted the musicians with the music. They acted as liaisons between the avant garde and the musical community....
But don’t forget Ornette took on rhythmically the loosening up of the dominance of the single meter beat so that you’d have multi-rhythms happening. Or something that wasn’t even considered rhythm, just slower or faster than the beat. That type of rhythmic suppleness was unheard of prior to him. For me, it was a question of techniques. I could play on simple triads, I could play on complex chord changes. I could play modally, now — could I play free? It was a question of stretching your consciousness, to allow yourself to be fearless. "
 
OP
Keep Blowing

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
1,496
Location
Bottesford England
Thanks for some more great reading! it has coincided with a Ornette Coleman CD I was recently given, Six Classic albums: The shape Of Jazz to Come ( I already had this one), This is our Music, Change of the Century, Free Jazz, Something Else and Tomorrow is the Question,

all for less than £20!
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,362
Location
leicester
Thanks for some more great reading! it has coincided with a Ornette Coleman CD I was recently given, Six Classic albums: The shape Of Jazz to Come ( I already had this one), This is our Music, Change of the Century, Free Jazz, Something Else and Tomorrow is the Question,

all for less than £20!
some good listening there - I really like his early albums when he's still got one foot in bebop but is playing the most audacious lines - I can almost hear Bird laughing his head off in disbelief that someone would dare do such things - abstract squiggles at an oblique angle to the rest of the band, making it laugh and say things that had never been said before, intermingled with reimagined blues and spontaneous melodies. Ornette had an enviable ability to keep coming up with fresh ideas in his solos, he never played any of the standard licks and runs, or if he did they were warped beyond recognition. No wonder people hated him, he wasn't playing the game properly and inventing new rules
This Is Our Music and Change Of The Century both demonstrate the masterful way the band interact and play together as a unit, particularly Ornette and Don's uncanny ability to think together.
Free Jazz I've never quite got on with, although I'm warming to it and I think I prefer the first take. It's not actually free of course, there's a definite structure to it all.
As far as I can tell, Atlantic records were responsible for the album titles - in those days record companies had much more say in things like that and clearly they wanted to create an impact and sell some albums.
I think one of the problems is that Dolphy and Hubbard weren't regular members of the band, so although they manage well, there's a certain lack of cohesion that another week of rehearsal would've sorted out. Still it's an interesting experiment and it shows the beginning of the harmolodic approach that came to full fruition in the 70's and 80's and it also had an influence on other artists' work like Albert Ayler's soundtrack to New York Eye And Ear Control, Coltrane's Ascension and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago.
 
OP
Keep Blowing

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
1,496
Location
Bottesford England
some good listening there - I really like his early albums when he's still got one foot in bebop but is playing the most audacious lines - I can almost hear Bird laughing his head off in disbelief that someone would dare do such things - abstract squiggles at an oblique angle to the rest of the band, making it laugh and say things that had never been said before, intermingled with reimagined blues and spontaneous melodies. Ornette had an enviable ability to keep coming up with fresh ideas in his solos, he never played any of the standard licks and runs, or if he did they were warped beyond recognition. No wonder people hated him, he wasn't playing the game properly and inventing new rules
This Is Our Music and Change Of The Century both demonstrate the masterful way the band interact and play together as a unit, particularly Ornette and Don's uncanny ability to think together.
Free Jazz I've never quite got on with, although I'm warming to it and I think I prefer the first take. It's not actually free of course, there's a definite structure to it all.
As far as I can tell, Atlantic records were responsible for the album titles - in those days record companies had much more say in things like that and clearly they wanted to create an impact and sell some albums.
I think one of the problems is that Dolphy and Hubbard weren't regular members of the band, so although they manage well, there's a certain lack of cohesion that another week of rehearsal would've sorted out. Still it's an interesting experiment and it shows the beginning of the harmolodic approach that came to full fruition in the 70's and 80's and it also had an influence on other artists' work like Albert Ayler's soundtrack to New York Eye And Ear Control, Coltrane's Ascension and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago.
I have listened to the whole box set ( I do a lot of driving) This guy is brilliant! if fact the whole band are brilliant!
Its the first thing I have listened to for a while that really gets me exited, its hard to explain but I get this really pleasing feeling inside me at certain points of Solos and Riffs. the oohs the aahs and the yeah's come out spontaneously , and when he really blows my mind certain expletives come out in amazement. ( he has such a rich colourful tone, and when he plays high he high notes it stays with him).

My two favourite tracks at the moment are as follow, it will probably be different ones next week ( I need to learn the Riff on Turnaround)
View: https://youtu.be/EAENjIdFGog


View: https://youtu.be/OG3AJSpb-fE
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,362
Location
leicester
I've been listening to Ornette quite a bit when travelling on the bus - there's something about the way it dances along that helps make journeys more pleasant.
Tomorrow Is The Question gets a lot of listens, probably because it's one I'm less familiar with but also because I love the way Shelley Mane Red Mitchell and Percy Heath remain unflappable when Ornette plays another audacious squiggly line.. This was the late 50's and musicians used to leave the stage when Ornette got up to play at jam sessions. Even now you'd get some darn funny looks if you played like that at the average jazz jam... hmm, now there's a tempting thought >:)
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
24,491
Location
Cheshire UK
I have listened to the whole box set ( I do a lot of driving) This guy is brilliant! if fact the whole band are brilliant!
Its the first thing I have listened to for a while that really gets me exited, its hard to explain but I get this really pleasing feeling inside me at certain points of Solos and Riffs. the oohs the aahs and the yeah's come out spontaneously , and when he really blows my mind certain expletives come out in amazement. ( he has such a rich colourful tone, and when he plays high he high notes it stays with him).

My two favourite tracks at the moment are as follow, it will probably be different ones next week ( I need to learn the Riff on Turnaround)
View: https://youtu.be/EAENjIdFGog


View: https://youtu.be/OG3AJSpb-fE
Enjoyed both of them

Thanks

Jx
 
D

Deleted member 6802

Guest
Ornette was a genious in my opoinion. Anyone who thinks that he is just playing bull**** should try to play this way, you can't just press random notes to sound this way... His lines are out of this world and so are his compositions.
 

randulo

19 months of alto
Subscriber
Messages
1,823
Location
France
Round Trip was transcribed in Downbeat in the 1970's. It was considered worth studying. I think it illustrates his inventiveness. As to whether anyone but him and his co-players actually hear anything but "shapes" (see what I did there), there are definitely some great phrasing ideas here, IMO. This still sounds modern to me.

I couldn't wade through all the four or five pages of posts, so apologies if this tune has already appeared.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7bLIsDfA1s
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,455
Location
brighton by the sea
I revisited Ornette Coleman a few years ago following reading an interview with him; he was an incredibly inspiring individual in his late 70s- hugely lively, enquiring and positive, really life affirming. I remember him waxing lyrical about the sound of New York traffic in a way that made it sound thoroughly poetic.
His almost child like enthusiasm and excitement about music and sound in general worked as a sort of key for getting into his playing…
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,641
Location
McLean, Virginia
And in fact it was Ornette who was my main influence in the track I have for this month's SOTM. In addition to Ornette being one of my main inspirations in actually taking up the saxophone in the first place.
 
Last edited:

randulo

19 months of alto
Subscriber
Messages
1,823
Location
France
This thread inspires me to compare any tentative to analyse, especially if based on Ornette's utterances, to the idea of how you (I mean YOU) hear melody, harmony and rhythm. Take harmony for example. Do you still think in terms of chord changes? They are only one way to hear harmony, an almost shorthand way to describe it, in fact. When I try to teach guitarist friends about harmony, they want to see the chords. When I play chords, I don't think "This is a C minor" when I play Eb A and D, then F Bb Eb to G, C and F. This is quartel harmony on a C minor scale, as practiced by McCoy Tyner, etc. You can then modify the "pattern" created there and move it up in an organized way, such as based on the roots of a diminished (half-whole step) scale. This makes no sense as "chords"!
I think Ornette and his ilk departed from thinking of traditional harmony and melody and had a concept that was harder to explain or maybe was inexplicable. It seems to me no one has ever come up with a clear theory, yet he's very respected by a lot of legitimate "music intellectuals", arrangers and theorists like George Russell. I once heard from a reasonably accomplished trumpetist that Miles Davis was shucking! Does anyone agree with that today?
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,362
Location
leicester
I think Ornette avoided coming up with a 'clear theory' because he didn't want his music to be reduced to a dry method rather than a living breathing form of self expression.
Plus a simple theory could never have encompassed the wide range of what Ornette taught his musicians in rehearsals in order to get them to express themselves. The fact that different musicians have different ideas about what they learnt from him indicates that his approach varied depending on the nature of each player and what he saw in them.
Ornette's music is difficult to play since it puts a lot of responsibility onto the players to look for their own solutions and find something that actually fits the mood of the piece rather than playing the same way on every tune regardless of content.
He wasn't ignorant of harmonic theory, he just didn't find the answers he was looking for in the text books and evolved a different way of thinking about music.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,641
Location
McLean, Virginia
Ornette to me is the ultimate melodic jazz player. Where melody actually transcends harmonic correctness, ie if the melody is good enough, the notes aren't wrong harmonically as long as you can resolve them in a way that makes musical sense at them and within the genre.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,362
Location
leicester
We have to bear in mind that in the post war period there was a general atmosphere of questioning the orthodoxy - classical music was moving away from tonal centres and becoming increasingly chromatic, art and literature were undergoing upheavals and jazz wasn't exempt from all that. So is it any wonder that music that was moving away from the old forms can't be analysed using those old methods?

The idea of resolving was something they were trying to break away from - after you've done it thousands of times, the resolution that inevitably occurs every 32 bars becomes irksome and restrictive, I think George Russell likened it to taking off in a plane and then having to land every few minutes... If you really want to fly then being weighed down by the gravity of the chord changes didn't help and various people were looking for solutions to that problem in late 50's jazz - Mingus went in for non standard structures incorporating elements of freedom, Miles took George Russell's advice and got into modes, Cecil Taylor took on atonality, Albert Ayler looked to gospel and the collective improvisation of early jazz for inspiration...
"You might characterise the whole era as the decline and fall of the chord" - George Russell
Ornette's music doesn't have obvious tonal centres - his lead sheets don't have key signatures - so the idea of resolution in the normal sense of the word doesn't really work in his musical world - there's the tension and release of each note relative to the one before and after it and in relation to what the other musicians are playing, but it's purpose isn't to resolve with a happily ever after consonance.

"It's about being as human as possible" - OC
 

randulo

19 months of alto
Subscriber
Messages
1,823
Location
France
Shucking?
So I'm older than many and now that I think of it, no one under 70 has probably heard that word. I tried to find references online and will try again, not that I am on a laptop, but for now I can only develop this insufficiently. There was an expression "shucking and jiving", whose origin is shamefully rooted in the era of legal slavery in America. I think it referred to shucking corn, but I have heard it used for oysters and I think it's still the correct term. I didn't know that until yesterday. Jiving came to mean kidding, and people in the sixties would say "I ain't jivin', man!".

The meaning of shucking I referenced is pretending to play something valid and "heavy" while actually playing random crap. In other words, not being connected to the music. When Miles first left the bob style he was brought up in (and let's not forget he went to Juillard and came from a wealthy family), he was accused by some jealous musicians of not really playing, but posturing. So I guess a simple definition of shucking is "Pretending to play with authority and depth while actually just screwing around with no logic or thought."

The point being that some, when they don't "hear it", think it's just B.S., rather than realising that they just don't hear it.

See also: Scars of Sweet Paradise
and this excerpt from Google Books.

13134
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom