[JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told

Rick McLaughlin rick at rickmclaughlin.com
Tue May 1 15:50:19 EDT 2007

Hello all,

I'm a fan of these books re: Free Music:

Free Jazz - Jost
The Freedom Principle - Litweiler


Rick McLaughlin

-----Original Message-----
From: jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com
[mailto:jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com] On Behalf Of Phillip Greenlief
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2007 3:22 PM
To: 'Jazz Programmers Mailing List'
Subject: RE: [JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told

This Week's JPL Sponsor: Voluntary Donors

-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of EdBride at aol.com
To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
Subject: Re: [JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told
revbob at crispen.org writes:
<<..Yeah he went farther than that (well, he would, wouldn't  he?), but I'm
not convinced we gain much by calling something "free" when  it's more
accurate to say "I don't get (intellectually and viscerally) the organizing
principles yet."..>>
Who coined the phrase, then? The performer(s), or we who "don't get"

There is either no real freedom or no real restraint in music. I've never
been sure which is true.

An improviser tries to "play free", but inevitably we call upon what we
know. It's pretty hard to divorce yourself from all the hours you've spent
practicing and learning music. The idea is: learn lots so you can forget it
and make music, but that's a lot harder than it sounds.  My least favorite
jazz improviser is the one that spits out loads of licks that s/he has

My favorite improvisers sound like their composing when they improvise.
Sonny Rollins, for example, is a master at constantly proliferating
melody...and he's always thinking about constructing melodic lines (not
chords, to refer back to my earlier post). Those lines are long and they
develop over the course of his solos.
I approach improvisation as composition in real time. The situation and the
people you're playing with dictate (for the most part) what the
possibilities are. If you're playing "free jazz" or any other kind of
improvised music, my ideal is that everyone is composing together in real

I think it's the same in jazz. My favorite jazz musicians (Coltrane, Monk,
Rollins, Mary Lou Williams, Mingus, even Sun Ra, to name a few) were all
composers. Their solos are intrinsically different - especially Monk, right?
He REALLY improvised like a composer - especially when it comes to the
element of economy. He learned you could say just as much if not more by
saying less. And he learned that through the act of composing (think of the
tune Thelonious, which is mostly built around a single note - or "Raise
Four" which is the same 6-note phrase repeated over and over again) you
could achieve "brilliance" through clarity. And every great improviser knows
that the more you hone your "solo" down to one idea that you develop, the
more clarity you can achieve, which is good for everyone - especially the
audience. No one likes to listen to people "fold their laundry" (which is
how I refer to improvisers that just flush out constant ideas that are never

Phillip Greenlief
c/o Evander Music
PO Box 22158
Oakland, CA 94623-9991


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