Cutting Ornette Loose

Pharoah Sanders playing at Ornette Coleman's funeral at Riverside Church, June 27, 2015. Photo by Enid Farber ©2015
Pharoah Sanders playing at Ornette Coleman’s funeral, Riverside Church, June 27.(Photo ©2015

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”