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mjzee

‘Celebrate Ornette’ Review: Live Performances, Timeless Influence

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A boxed set documents two shows that celebrate the importance of Ornette Coleman’s music: his final live appearance at a concert in 2014 and a funeral service for the jazz legend from 2015.

The first sound you hear on “Celebrate Ornette” (Song X Records), a CD-and-DVD boxed set, comes from Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone. All at once it conveys the frailty of old age; the sturdiness of enduring ideas; a childlike sense of play; and an elder’s wisdom. No one was certain Coleman would play at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in June 2014 during a concert in his honor. Yet out he came, horn in hand, a few songs in. These live recordings begin with that moment...

Coleman was 84 years old at that Prospect Park concert. He hadn’t played in concert since 2011. By June 11, 2015, he was gone. “Celebrate Ornette” (available through the Ornette Coleman website) includes that complete 2014 event—Coleman’s final public performance—and a quite different set of star-studded performances, from a June 2015 funeral service at Manhattan’s Riverside Church. The boxed set’s CDs include more than three hours of music (a premium edition presents the music on 180-gram vinyl LPs too). Two DVDs document the Brooklyn concert, intercut with backstage interviews, and the full memorial service, which blended music with testimonials (full disclosure: These include my own reflections). A large-format 26-page booklet contains rare photographs and essays.

Full review here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/celebrate-ornette-review-live-performances-timeless-influence-1485469989

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I can't read the review unless I subscribe.  I might buy the CD / DVD set. The LP's unfortunately are of no value to me since I don't own a turntable.

Edited by jlhoots

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Apparently no one cares about this!?!

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A sumptuous set by the looks of things.

I might well be interested but there's precious little info on the Ornette website that I can find - no line ups, neither for the Ornette concert nor the Memorial concert. there's more info about the artwork than the music. If I'm going to spend $100 plus $30 postage to UK I want to know more first. Someone tell me I'm just not looking in the correct place on the site....

Now found the line ups for the tracks

http://www.ornettecoleman.com/tracklisting/

risks being less than the sum of its parts I suspect but still a nice item for the superfan/collector

Edited by mjazzg
to update info

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The first sound you hear on “Celebrate Ornette” (Song X Records), a CD-and-DVD boxed set, comes from Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone. All at once it conveys the frailty of old age; the sturdiness of enduring ideas; a childlike sense of play; and an elder’s wisdom. No one was certain Coleman would play at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in June 2014 during a concert in his honor. Yet out he came, horn in hand, a few songs in. These live recordings begin with that moment.

Stating a cryptic blues, Coleman projects the same radiant beauty, vocal quality and radical freedom he did in the late 1950s, when he transformed jazz. Less than three minutes in, an ensemble of longtime associates assembled by his son, drummer Denardo Coleman, joins him, along with saxophonists Henry Threadgill and David Murray. “Ramblin’,” a Coleman classic, takes shape. In harmonic and rhythmic terms, the transition isn’t obvious. It’s as if we’ve entered through a side door, one only Ornette knew about.

Such is the magic and mystery of harmolodics, a musical philosophy as influential as it is esoteric, through which Coleman dispensed with, among other things, key signatures, and sent waves of influence well beyond jazz. The more than two-dozen musicians at Prospect Park included violinist/composer Laurie Anderson; Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers; and two members of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, the Moroccan ensemble with which Coleman recorded in 1973.

Coleman was 84 years old at that Prospect Park concert. He hadn’t played in concert since 2011. By June 11, 2015, he was gone. “Celebrate Ornette” (available through the Ornette Coleman website) includes that complete 2014 event—Coleman’s final public performance—and a quite different set of star-studded performances, from a June 2015 funeral service at Manhattan’s Riverside Church. The boxed set’s CDs include more than three hours of music (a premium edition presents the music on 180-gram vinyl LPs too). Two DVDs document the Brooklyn concert, intercut with backstage interviews, and the full memorial service, which blended music with testimonials. A large-format 26-page booklet contains rare photographs and essays.

The essays inform and demystify. Denardo, who first played drums in his father’s band in 1966 at age 10, and who produced this boxed set, describes the rigor—“the hours, days, weeks, months of rehearsal, those hundreds of tunes, parts and revisions”—behind what sounded utterly organic. Guitarist James Blood Ulmer explains that, for all its improvised glory, clearly stated melody is the key to Coleman’s music. The Prospect Park recordings underscore how many singularly brilliant melodies Coleman left us, and the avenues of interpretation they invite. The blues at the core of many of these gets expressed in various ways, most directly and intensely by Messrs. Threadgill and Murray, especially on “Turnaround,” and most abstractly through drones from a group that included Ms. Anderson, alto saxophonist John Zorn, bassist Bill Laswell. Geri Allen, one of the few pianists Coleman worked with, shines, as does Denardo, whose unconventional drum-kit approach gets accentuated in spots by tap dancer Savion Glover.

Coleman’s “Peace” sounds loose-limbed and freewheeling in the Prospect Park version; at the memorial, with Ms. Allen and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane in duet, it is reverent and prayerful. The Riverside Church performances trace an emotional arc; solemn solo tributes by saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist Cecil Taylor give way to a final celebratory four-guitar salute, via Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head.”

The DVDs offer touching details. At Prospect Park, there’s Coleman, seated onstage, smiling tenderly as Patti Smith recites a poem about him, and tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins explaining Coleman’s impact on “music, politics and human relations.” At Riverside Church, Yoko Ono leaves behind on the podium the white scarf she’d been knitting for Coleman when he died.

Beyond joyous expressions of enduring music and its context, this package functions like a family album—for the wide-ranging community animated by Coleman’s presence, still quite alive and unbound by convention.

 

“It’s not that Ornette thought out of the box,” Denardo announced at the memorial, “he just didn’t accept that there were any boxes.”

With this boxed set, he’s lovingly captured that spirit.

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2 hours ago, mjzee said:

The first sound you hear on “Celebrate Ornette” (Song X Records), a CD-and-DVD boxed set, comes from Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone. All at once it conveys the frailty of old age; the sturdiness of enduring ideas; a childlike sense of play; and an elder’s wisdom.

That's pretty amazing...all of this from just one sound.

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3 hours ago, Dmitry said:

That's pretty amazing...all of this from just one sound.

Well, a lot of this verbiage is hyperbole...witness Sonny's tribute to Ornette's impact on "music, politics and human relations."  The only time Ornette had an impact on my relations with my wife was when we both laughed at Dookie's "just wanting to DANCE!"  (A reference to the old BNBB; otherwise, will mean nothing to you.)  

Like any music, you listen to it and make of it what you will.  I thought the video looked cool, though.  Maybe not $100 cool, but cool nonetheless.

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I think I joined BNBB in 1999 or thereabout. Dookie rings a bell, can you refresh my memory?

Here's my own exuberant reflection from almost 15 years ago...amazing how time flies.

 

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Dookie was that cat who claimed to be the unloved and unacknowledged illegitimate son of Ornette, who he in very, uh, vernacular terms alleged was gay. He was very intense about it, and his hatred for Ornette and his music, but really, it came off more like a high-concept riff than anything else. This was back in the BNBB days, iirc.

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oh, haha, yeah I remember that vaguely.

love Ornette but don't feel like I need the box. I went to the memorial service and it was incredibly deep.

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Dookie was that cat who claimed to be the unloved and unacknowledged illegitimate son of Ornette, who he in very, uh, vernacular terms alleged was gay. He was very intense about it, and his hatred for Ornette and his music, but really, it came off more like a high-concept riff than anything else. This was back in the BNBB days, iirc.

Yep, now I remember. IIRC Dookie may have been DEEP/Danny D'Imperio's alter ego. Good times on the BNBB...:tup 

Sorry to thread crap, btw.

Edited by Dmitry

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I've listened to Ornette for 50 years and would be interested in hearing this music. But it's much too expensive. Why don't they offer a basic cd set or a download?

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On 2/2/2017 at 3:19 AM, ornette said:

I've listened to Ornette for 50 years and would be interested in hearing this music. But it's much too expensive. Why don't they offer a basic cd set or a download?

I have the set. I did through PledgeMusic and there were a lot of updates. There was a lot of care put into this. With 3Cds and 2 DVDs of music and the packaging, to me it's worth it and I haven't even started listening to it yet. :). I caught Ornette once, at the Newport Jazz Festival. 

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“It’s not that Ornette thought out of the box,” Denardo announced at the memorial, “he just didn’t accept that there were any boxes.”

For me, that captures the essence of Ornette perfectly.

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1 hour ago, paul secor said:

“It’s not that Ornette thought out of the box,” Denardo announced at the memorial, “he just didn’t accept that there were any boxes.”

 

We're talking about a box set here...;)

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