Today's Music News
Review: Ornette Coleman
Jazz pioneer still fresh after 50 years20 June 2009 - Ornette Coleman has been lionised by musicians from Ian Drury to Lou Reed, while the Master Musicians of Jajouka are descended from one of the oldest surviving musical traditions on earth; even Mick Jagger has sung their praises.
So it’s fair to say that most people probably approached last night’s show at the Royal Festival Hall with expectations that were as great as the reputations involved.
But in bringing his album The Shape of Jazz to Come back to the stage, half a century after it first thrilled and shocked audiences in equal measure, Coleman proved himself as elusive and inspiring as ever.
Though the 1959 record has long been regarded as one of the first avant guard or free jazz albums ever made, its impact was as immediate and surprising. Patti Smith slipped in and out to perform poetry over one track, while the Master Musicians of Jajouka improvised as part of an epic closing piece.
The 79-year-old has always had the capacity to divide audiences; Miles Davis famously called his music ‘unlistenable’ but his capacity to excite has been absorbed by some of the most innovative musicians of recent times like Frank Zappa and Iggy Pop – and it’s easy to see why.
"Ornette's music is unlistenable." Miles Davis
It’s staggering to think that this particular work of Coleman’s is half a century old, but fans afterwards said that on the whole his music had stood the test of time.
It’s true to say that they were divided about the guest appearances – Smith and the Jajouka band inspiring both great praise and bewilderment – but overall few who came to the concert knowing Coleman’s music went away anything other than delighted.
Coleman’s Meltdown festival has already seen performances by Yoko Ono (with whom he played onstage) and Patti Smith, and on Sunday he’ll perform an interpretation of his other most notable album, This Is Our Music, with the help of Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea.