Celebrate Ornette Concert Track List

  1. Ramblin 12:45 – Ornette Coleman, Savion Glover, Henry Threadgill, David Murray, DV
  2. OC Turnaround 7:07 – Ornette Coleman, Savion Glover, David Murray, DV
  3. Questions and Answers 3:29 – Bruce Hornsby, Branford Marsalis
  4. Blues Connotation 4:50 –Flea, Henry Threadgill, DV
  5. Broadway Blues 7:30 – Flea, Henry Threadgill, David Murray, DV
  6. The Sphinx 11:13 – Geri Allen, David Murray, Joe Lovano, Wallace Roney Jr., DV
  7. Seneca 5:00 – Patti Smith Group
  8. Tarkovsky 6:04 – Patti Smith Group
  9. 911 5:49 – Ravi Coltrane, DV
  10. Ornette Reverb Quartet 9:38 – Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Stewart Hurwood
  11. Sadness 6:05 – Thurston Moore, Nels Cline
  12. Peace 7:24 – James Blood Ulmer, Ravi Coltrane, DV
  13. Sleep Talk 7:30 – Geri Allen, Joe Lovano, Wallace Roney Jr., DV
  14. Dancing In Your Head 5:26 – Branford Marsalis, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Laswell, James Blood Ulmer, DV
  15. Turnaround 5:25 – Henry Threadgill, Flea, David Murray, DV
  16. Song X 7:08 – Master Musicians of Jajouka, Branford Marsalis, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Laswell, James Blood Ulmer, Ravi Coltrane, DV
  17. Lonely Woman 20:23 – Geri Allen, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Ravi Coltrane, David Murray, Wallace Roney Jr., DV

“This is one for the history books, and it’s happening right here in Brooklyn!” shouted out the night’s MC, Greg Mann. This was not hyperbole. ‘Celebrate Ornette’ was a part of the popular ‘Celebrate Brooklyn’ series – still, all present knew it was more than a regular show. Coleman himself was present, just 84 and physically frail. He was not expected to play. But pulled in by the music, he did. This documentary captures the balmy Brooklyn summer evening darkening over trees and lawns, the open air bandshell packed with everyone dressed in their light finery, alive with anticipation. (see more)

The show starts with honors from Eric Adams, the Brookyn Borough President, and Ornette’s longtime brother-in-jazz, saxman Sonny Rollins, who tells the audience, “Ornette Coleman has changed so much in music and politics – and human relations.” The embrace between Sonny and Ornette opens a notably tender night. Ornette himself implores the audience, “We can’t be against each other; we’ve got to get together and help each other.” That was his philosophy in life as in music; and these unprecedented combinations of artists and acolytes demonstrate the compassionate ingenuity and flexibility of the Harmolodic concept. Every song is underpinned by Denardo’s Vibe consisting of men who are raised harmolodically and steeped in its culture.

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In this film, the musicians are also interviewed, so they speak as well as play. Musically, the night revels in the many textures of Ornette’s multi-faceted canon. The foundational records of harmolodics are the brave statement albums of the late 1950s and early ‘60’s. They were recorded by the quartet of Ornette with trumpeter Don Cherry, drummers Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell and bass player Charlie Haden, the original Knights of the Harmolodic Table. Their spirit hovered over the night. Representing the formative years, Geri Allen’s lyrical piano complements Joe Lovano and David Murray’s warm sax on “The Sphinx,” from 1958’s “Something Else” ; Ornette himself plays with fellow sax men David Murray and Henry Threadgill on “Ramblin’” from 1960’s “Change of the Century” and “OC Turnaround” from 1958’s “Tomorrow Is The Question”; Threadgill and Flea blaze through “Blues Connotation,” from 1961’s “This is Our Music,”

But Ornette’s music evolved and challenged itself non-stop. Later periods, like “Sleep Talk” and “Turnaround” from the mid-‘80s digital, hiphop-tinged “Sound Grammar,” are lavishly interpreted here, first by Allen and Lovano, with Wallace Roney’ Jr.’s trumpet; and on the latter by Threadgill and Murray’s saxes sparring with Flea’s muscular bass.

As Laurie Anderson explains in an interview here, “I heard him and I went, ‘I want to play like that, I want to talk like that’.” He has indeed always been the savant of the avant-garde. “There’s only one Ornette,” as guitarist Thurston Moore said before playing a two-guitar feedback odyssey with Nels Cline take on Ornette’s “Sadness,” from 1962’s “Town Hall Concerts.” This new, aggressively plangent version affirms the original spirit of the song, when disillusion was driving Ornette away from public performance and he ducked out of the industry for two years. The explorations push further with one-off ensemble, the Ornette Reverb Quartet, explore abstract sweeps of sound, with Laurie Anderson on violin, saxman John Zorn, bassist Bill Laswell and Stewart Hurwood on reverb; for extra magic, they use the original guitars and amps of Lou Reed. Poet Patti Smith plants a kiss on Ornette’s head before launching into fiery rivers of verse, accompanied by guest pianist daughter Jesse, as well as her longstanding band of guitarist Lenny Kaye, drummer Jay Dee Daugherty and bass player Tony Shanahan.

Surprising the audience, tenor sax player, Ravi Coltrane plays with Denardo Coleman’s Vibe on “9-11,” a song composed by Ornette in reaction to that game changing tragedy. Though Ornette had performed it many times in his last years, it was never recorded. The rare track recalls the mood of Ornette’s funky electric double-drum-and bass Prime Time Band of the mid-‘70s, which shared the extreme, extrovert energy of that era’s punk.

Perhaps it took some of Ornette’s most full-frontal tornado music to lead up to the show’s climax. Ornette’s long association with The Master Musicians of Jajouka makes this version of “Song X,” (originally recorded to commercial as well as critical success in 1985,) powerful in a new way. The glorious cascade of Coltrane and Marsalis on sax, rolling with Hornsby’s piano and elevated by pure Ulmer guitar, is a torrent of energizing empathy.

To close, an Ornette lover’s dream: Murray, Coltrane, Marsalis, Allen, Lovano and Roney, Jr., with the Denardo Vibe band, pour their essence into a 20-minute plus version of “Lonely Woman.” The passion roused by that song is affirmed by fan, Lou Reed, for whom the song was a touchstone, in a moving clip shown onstage by cultural activist Hal Willner. A fitting close to a true night of deep harmolodic communication, this night of music played by a profoundly linked harmolodic family, was to be Ornette’s last appearance on stage. But as Flea observes, “Ornette’s music will last forever; it’s tapping the source.”

Ornette’s Memorial Track List

  1. Solo 4:05 – Pharoah Sanders
  2. Solo 8:38 – Cecil Taylor
  3. Sail 7:42 – Henry Threadgill, Jason Moran
  4. Peace 6:39 – Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen
  5. Duo 4:35 – Jack DeJohnette, Savion Glover
  6. Lonely Woman 8:10 –Joe Lovano, David Murray, Charnett Moffett, Al MacDowell, Denardo Coleman
  7. Dancing In Your Head 5:26 – Prime Time Band – Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Charlie Ellerbe, Bern Nix, Ken Wessel, Chris Rosenberg, Dave Bryant

At Ornette Coleman’s Memorial Service, the sadness was turned into celebration. Because who could live a life more fully than Ornette, who had changed the culture with his genius and known the full meaning of love?

The service’s flow was sensitively led by Phil Schaap of WKCR, the DJ who launched the station’s long-running 24-hour “Ornette’s Birthday Broadcast.” Accompanying the regal coffin, Morocco’s robed Master Musicians of Jajouka conjured untempered Africa in the nave. Pastoral blessings came from the church’s Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., whose inspirational sung/spoken rap, aimed straight at Ornette, talked of “Song Patrols” that try to block us from singing our own song – concluding that Ornette’s life showed us how to do it anyway.

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Opening musical blessings came from Pharaoh Sanders’ gentle, resilient saxophone solo. The service was studded with playing by people who understood Ornette’s harmolodic music as intimately as breathing, and personal reminiscences from the artists, musicians, poets and sculptors who were his friends. Among them was musician Karl Berger, a Swedish improviser who moved to America with his singer wife Ingrid at Ornette’s behest. He recalled Ornette saying, “’The less you think, the more your emotions will be fulfilled.” “He had a way with words like no-one I knew… it was just mindblowing,” stated Berger. “That was almost the point of it. He wanted you to go beyond simple logic when you talked to him. He would always push you beyond thinking to that same intuitive space where Ornette seemed to reside all the time.”

Those present saw footage, included here, taken from a documentary-in-progress: Ornette’s bold 2009 curation of the Meltdown Festival in London’s Royal Festival Hall. Ornette relaxes with Yoko and her son Sean, interviewees speak of the music, the man, the meaning; and the playing of Ornette, Denardo, Flea, Vernon Reid and others sparks as only harmolodics can.

And in the church, the outpourings were just as remarkable. Versifiers declaimed. Pianist Cecil Taylor spoke at the keyboards, elongating words like soaring solos. The one-time Young Lords member, poet Felipe Luciano, mused of his friend, “He is gonna ask sacred questions/leave you quiet and confused/you’re gonna get mad/you’re gonna get angry/but you will never be the same again.” Poet Steve Dalachinsky wove Ornette titles into a gift, and invoked activist poet Jayne Cortez, the wife of Ornette’s youth and Denardo’s mother, who died in 2012; her energy and spirit were very much present in the church, as most of those at the Memorial knew and loved her, too. Ornette’s fellow Texan, sculptor Melvin Edwards, who later married Jayne and also raised Denardo, explained, “Like many Texans of our generation, Ornette and I went West to go North. Texas was rough and we needed to get out of there to find places that were more hospitable to what we were trying to do.”

The self-made present that Yoko Ono, gave to the family as she spoke, made her words into performance art. “I knew Ornette for fifty short years and I wish there could have been another,” she said. “To have him sitting there just breathing would have helped the world.”

Periods of Ornette’s life sprang into vivid focus. The Amsterdam News’ Herb Boyd chuckled, remembering seeing Ornette in the very early days playing to a handful in a Detroit club and commenting, “It ain’t about quantity, it’s about quality.” “I became a disciple,” he smiled. Others evoked the laughter and jamming in Ornette’s alternative communities in “SoHo before it was SoHo!” as the loft jazz scene was forming. Speaking of “Harmolodocity,” Ornette’s nephew Tony Frere remembered what a fun uncle Ornette was, always gleefully expanding his horizons. Denardo’s childhood friend-who- became-family, Anton Wong, explained, “Following his example, we can all lead free-er lives. And that’s what Ornette would want for us.”

Playing for someone who has molded not just one’s music, but one’s whole worldview, taps into a profound level of creativity, straight from the wellspring of humanity and artistry that fed Ornette. Thus, the music we find on this recording is specially sacred. The unprecedented duo of drummer Jack DeJohnette and tapdancer Savion Glover spark an intricate, weaving pulse that unites everyone with its cross-rhythms. A benediction, the thoughtful “Sail,” was composed and played on bass flute by Henry Threadgill, with Jason Moran on piano.

As Phil Schaap explained, when John Coltrane died, one of the few he requested to play at his funeral was Ornette. So a circle remained unbroken when John’s son Ravi played saxophone with pianist Geri Allen on the gentle questioning of “Peace.”
What to choose, to close Ornette’s Memorial, from the man’s many great compositions? Generations of Ornette’s family, saxophonists Lovano and Murray,

bass players Moffett and MacDowell, unite with Denardo for an outpouring of soul in the key track, “Lonely Woman.” Then, Prime Time Band members from Ornette’s 1970s & 80s incarnations, reassemble: Dave Bryant on piano, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, with multiple guitars from Charlie Ellerbe, Bern Nix, Ken Wessel and Chris Rosenberg. Thus, the Recessional rejoiced with the happy clangor of the Prime Time anthem, “Dancing In Your Head.”
As the congregation filed past, Phil Schaap’s closing words rang in their ears as they will in yours: “Ornette lives.”



All Performers

Eric Adams – Presenter (Brooklyn Borough President)

Geri Allen – Piano

Laurie Anderson – Violin

Karl Berger – Speaker (Musician)

Larry Blumenfeld – Speaker (Journalist)

Herb Boyd – Speaker (Journalist)

Nels Cline – Guitar

Ravi Coltrane – Tenor & Soprano Saxophone

Steve Dalachinsky – Speaker (Poet)

Jack DeJohnette – Drums

Melvin Edwards – Speaker (Sculptor)

Flea – Bass

The Rev. Dr. James A Forbes, Jr. – Eulogy

Savion Glover – Tap

Bruce Hornsby – Piano

Stewart Hurwood – Reverb

Bill Laswell – Bass

Rev. Michael E. Livingston – Opening Prayer

Joe Lovano – Tenor Saxophone

Felipe Luciano – Speaker (Poet)

Howard Mandel – Speaker (Journalist)

Gregg Mann – MC (Master of Ceremonies)

Branford Marsalis – Tenor & Soprano Saxophone

Master Musicians Of Jajouka

Charnett Moffett – Bass

Thurston Moore – Guitar

Jason Moran – Piano

David Murray – Tenor Saxophone

Yoko Ono – Speaker

Sonny Rollins – Speaker

Pharoah Sanders – Tenor Saxophone

Phil Schaap – Officiator

Patti Smith – Vocals & Clarinet

Cecil Taylor – Piano & Poetry

Henry Threadgill – Alto Saxophone & Bass Flute

James Blood Ulmer – Guitar

Hal Willner – Speaker


Charlie Ellerbe – Guitar

Tony Falanga – Contra Bass

Al Macdowell – Piccolo Bass

Antoine Roney – Tenor Saxophone

Denardo Coleman – Drums


Charlie Ellerbe – Guitar

Tony Falanga – Contra Bass

Al Macdowell – Piccolo Bass

Antoine Roney – Tenor Saxophone

Denardo Coleman – Drums

The Prime Time Band

Jamaaladeen Tacuma – Bass

Charlie Ellerbe – Guitar

Bern Nix – Guitar

Ken Wessel – Guitar

Chris Rosenberg – Guitar

Dave Bryant – Piano

The Patti Smith Group

Tony Shanahan – Bass Guitar

Lenny Kaye – Guitar

Devin Waldman – Saxophone

Jay Dee Daugherty – Drums

Jesse Smith – Piano