Sometimes I feel that my approach to life is lot like that of Ornette Coleman’s approach to improvising when he first began the jazz movement that was become called ‘free jazz’. At that time, the late 1950s, most modern jazz musicians were basing their soloing and improvisations on the notes contained in the chords that make up a popular song often with strikingly exciting results. But, fundamentally, the improviser was still tied to those chords. They gave the music structure, but acted as limiters. Ornette bypassed the entire process, soloing in a manner that did not rely on a chordal base. Consequently, his melodies hark back to older, less structured, way of music making. One can easily hear the field-holler in his work. Without a chordal base, the music is essential without key and wanders into atonal territoy. Without a chordal base, his accompanying musicians required an almost supernatural empathy to follow and support his improvisations. Fortunately, in musicians such as Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, Ornette found such support.

I seem to bypass the conventions of class and social expectation, following my own melody, supported, I am happy to say, by my own family. It’s definitely the way to go.


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