Master of Harmelodics

Ornette Coleman- Live at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2003

About five years ago, I ventured out to New Orleans to check out one of the most talented and innovative saxophone players in the annals of free jazz history. Ornette Coleman played a huge part in introducing the idea of "free jazz" to the general public in the 60's, after releasing his seminal 1960 album entitled Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. He was also instrumental in formulating his own musical language called harmelodics. Harmelodic theory is essentially Ornette's theory that every instrument has its own pitches and that the same note on a music staff means different notes on different instruments. By exploring this idea, Ornette found a way to give everyone the same melody but with each person exploring various emotions within the context of the tune. If this sounds complex to you, you are not alone. Even though I can't get a handle on the harmelodics theory, I appreciate the intensely beautiful music that is created because of it. He has single-handedly rewritten the rules of jazz.

I intended to record this concert on my minidisc recorder without any interruptions. Unfortunately, a security guard noticed that I was holding a mike up about halfway through the show, and I was forced to stop recording the show. I was grateful that he didn't confiscate the minidisc player and the portion that I had already recorded, because it sounded pretty good.

About 4 years later I was having a discussion with Atanase from the now defunct blog Church Number Nine. He said that he had the entire show and would be happy to share it with me. The sound quality is really great, and it captures Ornette in a rare festival performance. The band lineup is Ornette on soprano sax, Denardo Coleman on drums, Alvin Batiste on clarinet, Ellis Marsalis on piano and someone whose name escapes my memory on bass. There are no titles for these tracks, so they just go by letters- a, b, c, etc. If anyone has any additional information about the song titles, please give me a shout. I hope you enjoy this one!

If you live in Portland, don't miss the rare opportunity to catch Ornette live at the Portland Jazz Festival. He will be playing at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall on Feb 15th. I'm not sure if it's sold out, but it has to be close to selling out.

Link is in comments.

Your comments are always appreciated!


Kevin said…
Ornette Coleman- Live at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2003 Part 1

Ornette Coleman- Live at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2003- Part 2
Anonymous said…
harmolodics, kevin, not harmelodics ;D
Med Tech 4 Life said…
Would've love to see him. Have always apreciated Ornette, and tried to understand him. Even if I don't always get it. Love his experiments with his double quartet 'prime time'. Cecil Taylor (the other big headliner this year at pdx jazz fest) I've never been able to get into
I bet Ornette is actually on alto saxophone. Ornette still sounds great on his horn (and never sounded good on violin!)
Anonymous said…
I saw Ornette at Massey hall in Toronto last Fall. The band was two bass players and Denardo on drums and it was such a pleasure to see him live after listening for thirty years.
I just saw that he will appear soon in Vancouver (I think) with a new band. He's added another player to the group. Guess what? A third bass! (electric) The man is so great. Many thanks.
A Pyrex Scholar said…
great post man!
Kevin said…
Med Tech 4 Life: I just saw him at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, and it was beyond words. I was able to capture it on my Olympus digital recorder, but the sound leaves a little bit to be desired. I will be posting both the Ornette and Cecil Taylor shows, since I was able to record them both.

Baby Breeze: Yeah, you're right, he was on alto. I do beg to differ with you about his violin playing. I thought his violin playing added another dimension to the harmolodics. Just my two cents!

Anonymous: 3 bass players almost made this show seem like a Mile Davis "Bitches Brew" fusion celebration. I've seen him twice, with different lineups and the highlight from the last show was when he played "Lonely Woman" in the encore.

Pyrex: Good looking out brother! Glad you appreciated the post.

Cheers to all of you!

Anonymous said…
Would love to see you post the Ornette and Cecil shows from Portland, either here or elsewhere (Dime or another torrent hub). My Sony D7 crapped out on me a couple of weeks before the shows, so unfotunately I wasn't able to capture them. Thanks for getting it done. Peace.

Med Tech 4 Life said…
Would love to hear the ornette show. I live in portland and was working that night. (plus wife probably wouldnt have let me go)
Kevin said…
Anon: I plan to post both the Ornette and Cecil shows in the near future. Like I said, the sound on the Ornette isn't top notch despite the great acoustics at the Schnitz, and there were times where I had to put the recorder down to let people into the aisle of seats. Check back within the next week or so for those shows.

Med Tech 4 Life: I can't believe that your wife wouldn't let you go. How could she deny you the opportunity to see one of the masters of free jazz. Oh well, hopefully my recording will give you an idea of what it was like to be in the presence of greatness. Check back in a week or so for that.

Best, Kevin
William said…

Thanks very much!
Anonymous said…
Mr. Coleman!!! COme see him this August in Chicago!
noteworthy said…
I can't wait to hear this.
Thank you very much!
BlindWilliam said…
Thanks. This is a great gift.

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