Ornette Coleman is playing tonight at Royce Hall. Our venerable jazzbo Brick Wahl makes a pretty strong case for the man and his myth:
Whenever a jazz icon or jazz legend or jazz god comes to town, jazz journalists get to strut their stuff and write beautiful, smart prose. The whole tight little, spoiled-rotten bunch of us pull out big, beautiful, educated paragraphs explaining just how and why some jazz great is a jazz great, and why you should lay out the bread — serious bread, usually — to make sure you see this guy. And everything is true and beautiful and the writing just flows … except for yours truly, who is invariably rendered speechless.
This column can go on and on about people you've scarcely heard of (see below), but faced with writing something real about a McCoy Tyner or a Herbie Hancock or a Sonny Rollins or an Ornette Coleman, we haven't a clue what to tell you. Nothing flows. Which is a drag, because heavyweight jazz icon Ornette Coleman is at Royce Hall on Wednesday, and this is a really big deal. Like the biggest deal all year, jazz-wise. Bigger than Charles Lloyd, even. Bigger than Herbie. Yet the only thing we can think of to tell you is that we really dig Ornette Coleman. And that you really need to go to this show.
He's 80 now, but stubborn and creative as ever. He flipped jazz on its ear more than once, blowing some minds and pissing others off. You already know about his classics from the '50s, when he really did show the shape of jazz to come. And you might even know why At the Golden Circle (spinning now as we write) is so uncompromisingly beautiful. And maybe some of his later transmutations left you cold, but who cares, he can't please everyone, if he even cares about pleasing anyone at all. Ya do what ya gotta do, and that goes double for making jazz. You play what you feel, and if the audience digs it, or even gets it, well, that's OK, too.
We caught this Ornette-inspired vibe from Wayne Shorter at Playboy a couple summers ago. Nobody got it, and it was perfect. Wayne did not care. He played for those of us who did get it. Expect the same here. But then you all will dig it. Ornette Coleman's in town, people. Get your tickets now. Hurry.