Thursday, November 29, 2007

On whether Ornette Coleman shall be anathema

A colleague at my last job inflicted Coleman on us from time to time. Now every time I rag on him (Coleman, not the colleague) someone rises up in his defense. One fellow I argued with claimed his work obtained an excellence above all Beethoven's opera save the late quartets which do apparently measure up to Coleman's greatness! His excellence at any given time is a function of his sidemen (he seems have had some good trumpet players associated with him), but even granting a degree of excellence doesn't preclude diabolism. His music is a lie--after the Father of Lies--on multiple levels, beginning with his fake saxophones, including the album title The Shape of Jazz to Come and lying deeply in his notion that there is nothing to choose between cacophony and melody, chaos and rhythm, tension and resolution. But mostly the lie is in his conceit that progressivism is some substitute for talent.

That all said, don't despair. In practice, to enjoy Ornette Coleman is probably less harmful to the soul of a sophisticated listener--who, on the deepest level, almost certainly doesn't believe the lies, but only plays along for while--than it is to that of the poor urban black teenager to hark the paeans to the gods of murder, pimping, cash and large shiny jewelry.

Then, I could be wrong on all of this.

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I'd be a blackguard and a cad, if I weren't so ineffectual. The less said "About Me", the better.