Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ornette Coleman at Bass Concert Hall

Another Jazz Legend at Bass

Once again, I was able to see another Jazz legend at Bass Hall. I was very fortunate, since I had waited some time to get tickets. Luck intervened once again, and I ended up in the 4th row. Although I was not able to take pictures during the show, I snuck one of the stage beforehand.

Ornette Coleman's Stage at the Bass

The show was introduced by a friend of mine, Casey Monahan, Director of the Governor's Texas Music Office. He spoke at length, about several Texas artists, all hailing from Texas, and in particular, one school in Fort Worth, which gave us Ornette Coleman, and Dewey Redman, just to name a few.

I estimate that the show lasted about 70 or 80 minutes, with Ornette playing mainly Alto Sax, but also Trumpet and Violin on several occasions. His band was interesting in that it featured two bass players. The band lineup was as follows:

  • Denardo Coleman - Ornette's son on Drums
  • Al MacDowell - Electric Bass
  • Tony Falanga - Upright Bass
  • Mari Okubo - a Japanese Operatic Vocalist who joined the band on stage for one number

Al played a very guitar-like style on Electric Bass, sometimes playing barre chords and strumming. It was always in counterpoint to what the other bass player Tony, was playing on Upright. Throughout, the band allowed Ornette to freely solo, in his smooth melodic way.

As far as Ornette goes, if you're familiar with his work, you know that he was controversial in some Jazz circles. He ushered in a movement that although mistakenly called free jazz, was melodic, obviously Blues based, but discarded traditional BeBop harmony. (This reminds me, BTW, that it would probably be humorous to see if Miles ever did a Blindfold test for Ornette.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but will admit to having a little difficultly with song featuring Mari on vocals. I particularly enjoyed one piece where Tony Falanga played Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, as Al and Ornette really went to town. I'm sure Johann Sebastian would have approved, had he been there. Last but not least, I was amazed how well Ornette played, since he is in his 80's now.

Bottom line: It was a great space in which to hear some great Jazz.