ORNETTE COLEMAN {Re}:Shape the Millenium w/ Harmolodix!


      Everyone who likes Ornette Coleman​’s music has 1000 great things to say about him  as a person & artist of zenith caliber. Here’s what I got from the maestro: in ’86 it was announced along with Charlie Haden on bass (from original ‘pianoless’ quartet), his son Denardo & Jack DeJohnette​ on electronic/ acoustic drums respectively, and last but none lesser then virtuoso Pat Metheny on guitar +/or gtr~synthesizer would do a dozen concerts supporting then-new ‘Song X’ album. Needless to say w/ 5 titans gong all in for the knockout over 12 rounds/tunes it was a life changing main gig. Howevz, the permafrost of epiphany which is still cooling like 1/2 lives three decades later was the encore ‘Endangered Species’. Never before or again did a song title or melody sans words & human vocals {although the psycho acoustics ringing in the faux~barouqe ceiling domes of Warner Theater certainly suggested alien choirs} say such profound premonitions, ecological awareness or hard-won awareness as this Mt. Everest of live improvisations.


      That performance remains a singularity of human civilization’s apex. Not because of the ego’s of the players, but because it subverted &  inverted them towards a common goal. Ornette Coleman​ was like a zen captain leading the Millennium Falcon thru an asteroid belt at warp speed, calmly stoking the fires of the ships thrust forward from light speed to pure particle acceleration. True visionaries need no praise, we only need to step up to the question they ask {with their statements of intent} when they threw down the gauntlet of their enlightenment : ~ What are you going to do about it ~ ?!? Now for the punchline/spoiler, inevitable sonic delineation analogy of “so what did ‘Endangered Species’ sound like”? . . .like the ruthless sandstorm of Motorhead’s bass blast against a Tibetan monk’s polyphonic modulating chant all filtered thru the urban blues of Charlie Parkers bebop played at quadruple time as Hendrix’s UFO pulsates in ominous skies over phosphorescent oceans of time. You had to be there ’cause hyperbole can’t describe the rapture.


1959: the ‘pianoless’ quartet {a rad concept in itself during post-bop}, Ornette on his white plastic alto sax, Don Cherry on a pocket trumpet, and a rhythm section as fluid as the asymmetrical Harmolodic brass. Harmolodic was Ornette’s concept which democratically freed the bass and drums from roles of servitude so they could step up front in the music, simultaneously it means an inversion of melody being supported by harmony whereas in Harmolodic theory melody actually creates the harmonies. It’s not ‘Free Jazz’, that was just a cool date he did for Atlantic w/ Eric Dolphy as part of a ‘double quartet’ {Ornette’s conception of an Octet}. In Harmolodic music each instrument is responsible (not unlike existentialism, or post Thoreau self-determination as model or means towards total freedom?) for all 3 roles at all times: melody, rhythm & harmony.


      Yet only those who played in his myriad bands can truly absorb Harmolodics, because there is a post-Dixieland collective improvisation effect a times, often dictated by the composition itself, while at other times different instruments take different focuses on the melody, harmony or groove. Like all jazz it’s all about listening while speaking only here the musicians must listen to each other at every moment of anyone can derail the whole band. Of course his band’s were conducted & schooled by the maestro, so when they hit the stage they had mastered his approach which was both specifically unique when heard for it’s detail and universally empathetic when experienced as a whole sound. Change of the century was indeed the case;  the verdict was a revelation transcendent of revolutions.


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