Thursday, June 11, 2015

Your Music Is Our Music - RIP Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman was one of my dad Charlie Haden's oldest and best friends.

They first met in 1957. My dad talks about it here. Without Ornette, Charlie, Don, and Billy jazz would be a lot different today.

I am so happy and grateful to have spoken with and spent time with Ornette on more than one occasion. Just like his music he had his own way of talking, simultaneously abstract and specific, universal and personal.

Once when I was a teenager my dad was on tour with Ornette and gave him a cassette of my punk band Treacherous Jaywalkers to listen to on his Walkman while they were riding in the tour bus. My dad told me he looked back at Ornette listening on the headphones and Ornette had a big smile on his face, nodding his head with the music.

A few years ago Ornette called my dad on his birthday and Ornette and I spent about 20 minutes talking on the phone about music and family, and he invited me to come over and jam next time I was in New York.

I was finally in New York earlier this year while on tour with my band Spain. On a day off I called Ornette's son Denardo and asked if I could come over. My friend and guitarist Kenny Lyon and I spent over two hours with Ornette talking about everything from women and relationships to music as the key to world peace. Ornette was frail and his mind showed the signs of aging but he was lucid and cared about the future of the planet and humankind, often accenting his observations by saying "Nothing wrong with that!" Kenny snapped the pictures below. We easily could have talked all night and into the morning.

Ornette is still ahead of his time. He is a trailblazer and visionary. I literally don't think music will ever catch up with him. Ornette changed jazz and music in general permanently, against great odds and against a great wall of criticism, and he proved that it's OK to think differently and go against the status quo, and to follow and trust your instincts, and to choose freedom over constraint. That is what Ornette means to me.


Bill T said...


Thanks for sharing this. Both your father and Ornette changed the way I listened to music forever. I had the fortune of bumping into your father once in NY and he was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with a gushing fan. I last saw your dad and Ornette together at the Orpehum Theater in LA many years back when the original quartet came back together. Unfortunately Cherry was ill that night, but that show will live forever in my memory. As will a show that was just your Dad and Cherry doing solos and duets in a church in Santa Barbara.

I also saw the Treacherous Jaywalkers in a gig at McCabes. I believe the show was billed as a Trio of Trios. Your Dad's trio, your band and Mike Watt's, Firehose. I indeed have been blessed with the music of Ornette's world, and your Dad's great part in it. I have yet to see Spain, but listen often. Please share my thoughts with your family and Ornette's as well.


Bill Thompson

orlando cordero said...

Thanks Josh. I hope you and your family are doing well. I remember when you introduced me to Ornette's and your dad's music back in school, and I've listened ever since. Introducing music to another person is a gift that never stops giving.


E S said...

Looking around everywhere for any and all comments about the greatest musical influence I have ever known. Thqnks for sharing Josh. I never had the honor of meeting Mr Colemena, but I met your father several times: once at Rhino Records in LA. over 30 years ago and about 8 years ago during what may have been the last Liberation Orchestra Tour in Paris, France. Akong with Don, Billy, Dewey and Ed, they were magic incarnate.