[JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told

Lazaro Vega wblv.wblu.fm at gmail.com
Tue May 1 10:02:42 EDT 2007

Sure, "post modernism" is about ignoring borders, though there's a
wide expanse emotionally/intellectually and spiritually between kitsch
and the heights of jazz expression. Several artists have tried, and
succeeded, in marrying the two: Patricia Barber, especially, and The
Bad Plus -- have you heard "Tom Sawyer" on their new disc?

Yet "place" wasn't the main issue in Teachout's article, for me, but
the notion that Ornette established himself a long time ago as a jazz
figurehead. Well, yes and no. What Ornette did made possible the two,
generally two, worlds of jazz we live in today: those who play in
form, no matter how far form is stretched, and those who play free
form. He opened the doors to another means of organizing
improvisations and the door turned into a floodgate.

Now Ornette was not the only one to do this and his was not the only
model to follow, yet because of his Five Spot engagement and the
attendant media coverage, his message got through where after years of
trying the traditional jazz routes Cecil Taylor was shut out.

There's been a tremendous amount of critical action to discredit the
free form "camp" since the return of Dexter Gordon from Europe, the
return of Art Pepper from prison and the great work Art Blakey and
Betty Carter in the 1980's which placed a focus in jazz on past
developments. It's as if we, or Stanley Crouch, couldn't look back to
those great methods without pouring salt on what Ornette wrought. Sure
Crouch appreciates Ornette but the developments in jazz Coleman made
possible are wrongly affixed to European concert music (see The Bad
Plus web site feature "Do the Math" for insight into Crouch's
declarations to that effect). There are almost two generations of jazz
musicians who've grown up thinking "free jazz" is a pile of crap. So
the significance of the award is to re-focus attention on the last
great shake up of jazz methodology and approach by its living master.
And, Sound Grammar is a welcome return not only to active touring by
Coleman but also to acoustic instrumentation and to a group format he
previously explored only in concert. (Kalaparush did a suite of music
with the two bass, drums and saxophone instrumentation in the 1970's,

I'm down with it. Of course, the award may have little or no effect on
reversing perceptions.

And I believe Wynton's Pulitzer was awarded in the classical category
-- Blood was not considered a jazz work from what I understand.

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