Ornette Coleman and the art of improvisation


Last week blues guitarist BB King passed away , this week, it is another great –Ornette Coleman, jazz saxophonist.

 

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Having bought his first saxophone with money he had earned from shining shoes, Coleman learned to play it as if it were a toy.

“I didn’t know you had to learn to play,” he told the Guardian.

“I didn’t know music was a style and that it had rules and stuff, I thought it was just sound. I thought you had to play to play, and I still think that.”

This is the approach Coleman had and was a fundamental attitude that led him to be such a great innovator and improvisor.

If there is one joy when you hear jazz,it is through the power of  improvisation.

 

Ornette Coleman Trio 1966

 

The free flow of connected and sometimes even unconnected sounds, in response  to one of your fellow musicians.

It is the wonder of creativity that if you are watching live,means that you are witnessing something that has never been heard before, and if not recorded at the time, may never be heard in thesame way again.

Such is the power of improvisation.

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one quote tells it all:

In 1986, the guitarist Pat Metheny recounted the experience of playing alongside Coleman in full improvisatory flow:

““The challenge in this situation is that sometimes Ornette plays and stops, then I have to play.

The other night in Washington, we did this tune called Broadway Blues, and he played the most perfect musical statement I’ve ever heard.

I gave it my best, but I have no pretenses of improvising at that level.

 

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……and what influenced him?

“Actually, when I was in elementary school, I saw a saxophone.

A band came to my school, and I saw this guy get up and play this solo.

And I said, ‘Oh man, what is that! That must be fantastic!’

 

 

 

In some ways, as educators, or parents, or friends, we must give as many opportunities to children to listen, to watch musicians and to experience playing an instrument to have the opportunity to be inspired.

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A quote from Robert Wyatt:

 “What has always warmed my heart,” he writes, “has little to do with his influence on younger improvisors.

It is the timeless vocal beauty of the actual sequences of notes and phrases he could come up with, and the feeling of pure living joy of playing they can communicate.”

 

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~ by Ray Harris on June 12, 2015.

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