After a long trying day full of situations that were fubar and snafu’d, we were rewarded with an evening with a living treasure, jazz Hall of Famer Ornette Coleman.
The Schnitz was packed to the point of overheating, and that was before Ornette’s band started playing bits from “Sound Grammar.” Ornette writes an extreme form of intellectual music, one that is, in his own words, about ideas.
I’m not ashamed to admit that Ornette’s invention, free jazz, is not what I normally gravitate to, as it is quite challenging. But it is also plain astounding in its ultra expression of the essence of jazz.
And Portland was most appreciative. Post-concert, we sat with Ornette, invited to visit with him by our friend who was part of the musician’s entourage. Ornette (and what a nice name) seems to be one of those greats who became an outsized genius out of an inner urge to explore originality, humbly, at the feet of the masters. In Ornette’s case, these were Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk among others. He speaks softly and with a touching sincerity.
On Portland: “People here are so nice. So nice. I just can’t get over it. So nice.”
On his performance: “At first I was a little nervous, but after feeling that the audience was so nice, so quiet, I knew I could try any idea I could think of, and so I did.”
On his music: “Improv isn’t a style; it’s an idea.”
He is the Picasso or the Pollock of music.