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.