Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It’s weeks ago now that Devin H. posted on the amazing revival of the Ornette Coleman debate -- an astute & biting post -- and it’s unfashionable in Blogville to link to something you read weeks ago, but I have no energy tonight for anything more taxing than reminiscing about some music I love.

In ‘99 I went to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank for about 5 weeks. A college pal (and former bandmate) was living in Cairo with his family, so I stayed with them and travelled from there by myself. Fearing homesickness, I brought a tiny cassette player and a handful of tapes. (I also brought a harmonica, but that doesn’t enter into this story.)

A fave tape was a dubbed cassette that my friend John D gave me, with Dusty in Memphis on one side and Ornette’s Change of the Century on the other.

One day after an all-day truck ride across a desolate desert road, from one Egyptian oasis village to another, I got some sort of bad, short-lived bug and spent a day in bed in a hotel. And nothing sounded sweeter than Ornette’s sax. His earthy, warm tone and his voluptuous melodicism -- it felt like he was tracing the best parts of my soul, his sound rubbed my belly and my ribs -- his whole band hit the spot, the delicate strength and confidence of a new and unique style, the friendly gesturalism of it -- and his improvisations especially. An unforgettable listening experience. I was deeply grateful for his ministrations.

“Change of the Century” -- he changed jazz more than anybody since Louis Armstrong determined that it would swing and be a soloist’s art. Charlie Parker had greater influence as an individual stylist, but Coleman’s abolition of chord patterns as the basis for improvisation, and his radical, freely expressive approach to intonation, changed how people conceptualized music -- jazz especially, but also European-derived concert music and eventually rock as well. And he didn’t only influence those who came after him -- he influenced well-established brilliant individualistic stylists -- some of the most amazing musical minds of the time -- such as Mingus, Coltrane, Rollins, Miles.

But influence is only one story. The main story is the primacy of sound. Coleman’s is gorgeous and unique.

oh yeah,
i'm catching your mood these days. sweet rains and aching change.
so glad you have that Dusty/Ornette tape, that it still plays for you.
peace my friend,
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?