In this piece, my favorite quote about Coleman comes from Miles Davis who says: “He just came and fucked up everybody.”
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ornette since he passed, via Columbia’s WKCR jazz show in the evenings. What the Mojo article says about his style being rooted in the blues makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever listened to Robert Johnson, or anyone else really from the Mississippi Delta. It’s all about getting feeling across, and that doesn’t mean necessarily being in tune or adhering to time signatures. It’s all about the individual voice and going wherever the spirit takes you.
But is Coleman listenable? I guess that’s the question. It’s a strange thing that happens. He starts out feeling inaccessible, but the more time you give to him, he starts to penetrate and opens new pathways in the brain. A similar thing might occur the first time you hear Lou Reed or later John Coltrane, I’d say. But Ornette was way farther out than either of them. I can remember listening to Free Jazz and some early Sun Ra around the same period of time, and it was a similar thing going on there, too. Seemingly no rules, no order. But then the brain somehow organizes it and you’re left feeling kind of amazed by it.