By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
His method has the effect of not only giving you information, but then maybe taking you out of the preconceived zone that you might be in, so that the music becomes even more natural.
Does he write things out?
Oh yeah. Sometimes he’ll get a manuscript book for each musician, and write various things in it — exercises or . . . [He hesitates here, as ifexercise, likestyle, might be a word Ornette doesn’t care for.] It would be kind of like laying out a natural progression of examples. One might have to do with dealing with a key or dealing with chords. My father loves to go through, looking at these various examples, how you can really look at the notes differently, and the combination of notes differently. It’s almost like language [Ornette’s 1987 album was calledIn All Languages], in the sense that even though you may see a word on paper, it could be used in so many different ways depending on the context, or how it’s being used in terms of the inflection. So all of a sudden, you may have a sentence that takes the passage it came from into a whole different place. He opens you up to expanding not only your vocabulary but also what you can hear.
Sounds like Derrida’s deconstruction — kind of difficult. How long does it take a musician to get spontaneous with the theory?
It doesn’t take that long. Because if you get with him one time, he will reveal something that starts to open up a door that you didn’t realize was there. Just that revelation breaks everything down for you, breaks the lock. Then how far you take it, that’s a different matter.
You yourself must have a special rapport with him.
From playing together for so long — it’s fluid, in terms of having ideas and being able to hear what he’s doing and pick up on it pretty quickly.
You’re still having fun with it, and you have little need to perform with other musicians.
I’ve been spoiled. There aren’t too many other situations like this, where you’re encouraged to have this kind of freedom, yet you’re expressing a complete musical statement on a really high level. A lot of times, when I’m playing other things, I can’t get back to a conventional place.
You don’t get out here often, but you must have memories.
I have a lot of memories of Los Angeles — I had my early childhood out there. [His mother, with whom he also performs, is poet Jane Cortez.] Family and friends and old neighborhoods, and there’s a feeling that I get when I come back there that’s real nostalgic. So it’s nice to go back there and play, because often your friends or family don’t necessarily see what you’re doing.
Any particular plans?
Aside from gettin’ a good Fatburger . . .