I remember working the Blue Note in NYC with the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir and seeing Ornette sitting right down front. You couldn't miss him with his powder blue suit and stingy brim hat. For some reason he wasn't really a threatening presence, like some musical living legends are when they're sitting like 4 feet away, staring straight at you while you're trying to figure out which end of the horn to blow air into.
Sure enough, at the end of the last set when I was able to work my way over to talk to Ornette, I found him to be a kind and gentle soul, very easy to talk to. Very down to earth.
We go back in there in July, hopefully I'll be able to hang out with him some more......
Ed, my exposure to Ornette began in the early '60s when my cousin turned me onto the Sonny Rollins RCA alblum, "Our Man In Jazz." Sonny made the recording with Don Cherry on trumpet, and Billy Higgins on drums. The bassist was Bob Cranshaw. On this recording, Sonny was using Cherry and Higgins to help him replicate the style of Ornette Coleman. Don and Billy were members of Ornette's band at that time. So, it was a little easier for me to hear this new music through the interpretation of Rollins, who was more familiar to my ears, as opposed to the more radical sound of Coleman's alto.
My next serious exposure to Ornette's music was around 1969 when the same cousin ( he's a very hip dude!) showed up with a record called "New York is Now." Ornette's latest product at that time. This time there was the tenor of Dewey Redman to help me to comprehend what Coleman was laying down. I remember that the interplay between the two horns was incredible. And I imagine that the presence of Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones also made things a little more familiar for my still green ears.
I think that the work of any great artist has a job to do. And that job is to last a lifetime......... and not just our lifetime. But for lifetimes still to come. So sometimes the work is going to be beyond our comprehension for right now, today. But we may comprehend a little more of this work tomorrow, or next month, or next year. I know that I sure don't understand all of Ornette's music right now, but it keeps sounding a little better to me over time. And I'm sure that the next generation of listeners, the ones that are babies today, are going to hear things that we don't, or at least hear it differently, hear it in a way that might relate to the world that they're going to be living in many years from now.
So keep listening, there's more to come!
BTW, my cousin is STILL pulling my coat, stretching my ears.