The man from Ft. Worth, and the aesthetic of free jazz
Fort Worth native Ornette Coleman may not be a household brand like Miles or Coltrane outside of jazz circles, but within the music world his name is huge. A revolutionary thinker and composer, he was instrumental in the "free jazz" movement; on his 1961 stereophonic album that bore that name, he put one quartet on the left channel, another on the right channel, and let them improvise freely.
It sounded like chaos to casual listeners and like a coup to jazz traditionalists, but Coleman's aesthetic was rigorously intellectualized. He called his musical theories "Harmolodics," and insisted that they transcended the limits of the jazz world; he composed for string quartets, woodwind quintets, and orchestras. In the '70s, Coleman went to Morocco to collaborate with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, and in later years made landmark records with Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.
Even if the show were limited to 20 minutes and performed from the bottom of a well, though, a chance to see Ornette Coleman is not to be missed by anyone open to the wilder side of jazz. •
By John DeFore