It’s hard to describe how it feels to stand at the podium of Riverside Church, to look down at a coffin that holds Ornette Coleman’s body, and to look out at a large crowd including Yoko Ono, Sonny Rollins, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn and Jason Moran, along with so many musicians and artists and friends from all corners of New York’s cultural world and from a much wider world, too.
An hour earlier, I’d attended the viewing. Lying in state, Coleman looked resplendent in one of his customary silk suits; he looked happy, bathed in his own glowing light, much as he’d always seemed when I saw him.
Early on in the 3 1/2–hour celebration on Saturday, June 27—which began with a procession led by two musicians from the Master Musicians of Jajouka, the Moroccan brotherhood that collaborated with Coleman several times in his career—I had the honor and the challenge of finding words with which to help do justice to Coleman’s life and legacy, and that might help raise everyone up. Continue reading “Cutting Ornette Loose”
The Puzzle Ornette Coleman Left Us
On Saturday, June 27, at 11am, I’ll be at Manhattan’s Riverside Church for a funeral to celebrate the life, mourn the loss and revel in the spirit of Ornette Coleman.
Coleman, who died at 85 on June 11, delivered on the promise of the title to his 1959 album, “The Shape of Jazz to Come.” The flow of jazz ever since in fact has been redirected, its course widened and altered.
Yet Coleman gave us no template or mold. Rather, he offered liberation from these things while suggesting—no proving—that such freedom did not mean forfeiture of aesthetic purpose or historical grounding. No one has or likely will make music quite like his, but few serious and searching jazz musicians have ignored the possibilities suggested by the doors he blew open. Continue reading “The Puzzle Ornette Coleman Left Us”