Remembering Ornette Coleman on his birthday

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016
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Remembering Ornette Coleman on his birthday

Ornette Coleman would’ve been 86 today, and he’s particularly missed this year because it’s the first time we’ve had to celebrate the day without him. When Coleman passed away on June 11, 2015, there was an outpouring from his fans, many of whom – as you might reasonably expect – were fellow musicians, about how much he meant to them both as a musician and as a person. Below you’ll see remarks from five of those folks, and you can tell that each remark, no matter how long or short it may be, is filled with love of the man and his music.

Happy birthday, Ornette. Wish you were here.

1. “Ornette Coleman was more than a musician, more than a composer. He was a visionary, a man who made real the most subtle of dreams, as well as those most powerful and earth-shattering.” – Nels Cline, Wilco

2. “I liked Ornette Coleman a lot, and Don Cherry a whole lot. I used to always go see 'em at clubs, the original Ornette Coleman Quartet – with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden.” – Lou Reed

3. “Ornette took the hit for being independent, for having his own ideas. Even in a genre like jazz, which prides itself on freedom, there are rules of engagement – Ornette shook up that orthodoxy. And a lot of people did not get it. The notion of doing what calls you, what you want to do – that was transmitted through Ornette. To play with Shannon, who came out of what Ornette was doing – without that, I would never have started Living Colour. Even though the music was different, the impulse was the same. I owe Ornette a great debt.” – Vernon Reid

4. “In the 1950s, Ornette lived in New Orleans with drummer Herlin Riley's uncle, Melvin Lastie, a deeply soulful trumpet player. I remember getting to Ornette's house at about 11:00pm and we played our horns until about 2 in the morning without saying a word. Ornette was something – with a rare kind of home-spun seriousness and pure insightfulness that immediately made you feel at home. He said, ‘Don't worry too much about criticism,’ and to focus on the subtle command of the emotion in my sound and to communicate in the same way a person speaking might raise an eyebrow or scrunch their face. After we played, he told me that in the late 1950s my father and Alvin Batiste drove all the way from New Orleans to Los Angeles to visit him.  They rolled up to his crib unannounced and said, 'Hey, man, we just came to see what you were dealing with.' We laughed about all kinds of stuff, and when I finally left his house at 3:30 in the morning, he saidF, 'Don't compete with people, compete with yourself. Music is an idea, not a race.” – Wynton Marsalis

5. “Ornette Coleman is the most beautiful man that ever lived.” – Flea