Page 12


Coleman, continued from page 23 when he composed his Skies of America, is also unlikely. And yet Coleman’s composition is indubitably related in sound and spirit to such experimental works by Ives as his Three Places in New England and his Fourth Symphony, especially in Coleman’s section entitled “The New Anthem.” The saxophonist solos against the symphony orchestra in seven of the 21 sections, in particular and significantly on the ones entitled “The Artist in America,” “Foreigner in a Free Land,” “Silver-Screen,” “Poetry,” “Love-Life,” and “Jam Session.” He also solos on “The Men Who Live in the White House,” which seems to move from sinister in the ensemble section to jingoistic and perhaps demagogic in Coleman’s solo passages. It is also significant that he does not solo on “The Military.” Although it would be difficult to say that Coleman is an openly political artist, he certainly understands America as a land affected by a tendency to jingoismas well as its many other tendencies and movements. He revealed as much in his remarks on his musical composition: “The skies of America have had more changes to occur under them in this century than any other country: assassinations, political wars, gangster wars, racial wars, space races, women’s rights, sex, drugs and the death of God.” Like Charles Ives and Walt Whitman before him, Ornette Coleman has heard America singing, fighting, loving, longing, and his music reflects this larger, deeper, rather than merely political, picture of the nation and its peoples. The title of his 1978 CD says it all: Coleman’s music is “In All Languages” and has reached around the world in its appeal. In Amsterdam, a repertory group led by trumpeter Eric Boeren recorded a 1997 CD, Cross Breeding, the title tune one of seven Coleman compositions, including his “Free Jazz:’ that were interpreted by the Dutch musicians. The composer has himself performed with diverse groups and individuals, from guitarists Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Pat Metheny to Moroccan master musicians of Joujouka. Coleman plays his saxophone on the soundtrack for the film Naked Lunch and has accompanied singer-songwriters Joe Henry and Lou Reed. Like many other jazz musicians, Coleman has resisted being limited by the term “jazz:’ as he attempts to encompass all forms of music and all peoples. Latin-leaning tunes like “P.P. Sound Museum and Tone Dialing are typical of his work and reflect his Texas upbringing. His acknowledgments on Tone Dialing take up an entire page of the CD insert, and end with his appeal for acceptance of his sincere appreciation for the assistance of any whose names he left off the list. Being grateful is but one of Coleman’s many laudable qualities as man and artist. The rather down-home yet advanced “Tone Dialing” was one of the most engaging tunes performed at the Austin concert, as was “If I Knew as Much It opened with the dual basses setting a somber mood that prepared us well for Coleman’s passionate but delicate outpouring in the upper register. The titles of these and other selections are representative of Coleman’s concerns in his music, in particular such titles as “Search for Life “Sound is Everywhere;’ “When Will I See You Again,” and “Family Reunion!” The latter could be a theme song for a TV series, and the former summons up a lovely, romantic melody that, set to words, could easily become a hit recording. On the other hand, “Local Instinct” is an updated version of Coleman’s revolutionary Free Jazz of 1960. Forty-five years later, Ornette Coleman is still creating his extraordinary sounds while almost all the avant-garde has departed the scene, including his own Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, to whom he has dedicated Sound Museum. Who would ever have imagined such a turn of events? Surely not his early detractors, who wrote him off as a flashin-the-pan charlatan. But Coleman is a survivor in every sense of the word. He has endured ridicule and rejection and even a brutal physical attack by clients in a New Orleans bar who objected to his unorthodox style of jazz. Through it all he has remained true to his vision Coleman is a survivor in every sense of the word. He has endured ridicule and rejection and even a brutal physical attack by clients in a New Orleans bar who objected to his unorthodox style of jazz… he has remained true to his vision that the world “needs music that fills the heart with love and joy and the mind with joy whatever the style:’ As he goes on to say, “It’s a very sad affair when one must put any music above another to fulfill a social position for wealth or personal ego:’ In no way has Ornette Coleman been an egoist; instead, he has brought love and joy to the hearts and minds of inhabitants all around the globe, from Texas to New York, from Africa to Sweden, from the Netherlands to Japan. His has truly been a generous gift, to be celebrated every anniversary of this Texan’s birth. In addition to reading, writing about, and translating Latin American poets, Dave Oliphant frequently writes about jazz. His collection of essays, Jazz Mavericks, is forthcoming from the University of Texas Press. MARCH 18, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27 a