Ornette Coleman, A Harlem History, 1958 (Video)

11392856_10153135607123423_3896887056001050186_nOrnette Coleman left a lot of love in Harlem. He was considered one of the most important figures in Harlem music history.

The Amsterdam News said,:

(Coleman lived) in Harlem for more than 30 years, the saxophonist could often be seen walking down 125th Street, dressed in the hippest gear. No one dressed or played like Coleman.

Coleman had a mild, cool demeanor and was soft-spoken. He was a real Texas gentleman willing to speak with his fans on the street and offer advice when called for.

He recorded a number of tunes dedicated to Harlem, one of them “I Remember Harlem,” by the Ornette Coleman Quintet Live in October 1958 at the Hillcrest Club, Los Angeles, California and the tune below the 1961 masterpiece “Harlem Manhattan:”


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In 1995, Coleman and his son, Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (and manager and drummer), established the Harmolodic record label and studio at 1825 Park Avenue at 125th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, which had a marketing and distribution arrangement with Verve/PolyGram. Harmolodic went on to release new albums by Coleman and Jayne Cortez (poet, activist, wife and mother of Denardo, her writing is part of the canon of the Black Arts Movement.), and also reissued some of Coleman’s previous albums. Harmolodics is also the musical philosophy and compositional/improvisational method of jazz that Coleman created. It is therefore associated primarily with the jazz avant-garde and the free jazz movement, although its implications extend beyond these limits. Coleman also used the name “Harmolodic” for both his first website and his record label.

Over the course of a decade Harmolodic released a number of works beginning with the label first release Tone Dialing, in September 1995. ‘Tone Dialing,’ on which a Bach prelude is rendered harmolodically. Coleman said, ‘Tone Dialing’ makes connections:

” I think the tone is the most sacred part of the human being because if I meet you for the first time and you don’t like me, you’ll send me a tone and yet you’ll answer me in a straight way but your tone will tell me many things about whether you don’t like me, or you do like me,” Coleman said of the concept. ” ‘Tone Dialing’ is the most advanced way of assembling moving information on the planet these days. (There’s) Nothing that you use that transmits a signal that a tone doesn’t represent first.”

In addition, Sound Museum: Hidden Man is an album recorded in 1996 released on the Harmolodic/Verve label.

Accuraterecords.com  reports that:

…the great Ornette Coleman never employed a keyboard player in his band until he hired Dave Bryant for Prime Time, over ten years ago. “The Eternal Hang” is Bryant’s debut as a leader, and shows a unique vision of jazz, somewhere between the sprawling polyglot orchestra of Coleman’s Prime Time and a more compact modern free jazz unit….

Bryant enlisted the services of the legendary Roger “The Immortal” Nichols, who engineered the Steely Dan albums of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, and recorded at Coleman’s Harmolodic Studios in Harlem. The recorded sound yields a level of detail and clarity seldom heard in avant-garde jazz, and gives the ear many ways into this dense sound scape.

“The Eternal Hang” brings together two truly eccentric streams of American music, Coleman’s Harmolodics and Becker and Fagan’s studio perfectionism.

The conductor Leonard Bernstein referred to Coleman as an “innovative genius.”

Do you have any stories regarding Mr. Coleman?

Photo Credit: The opening of Harmolodic Studios and Sonic Circus in 2001.

About Harlem World Magazine

Harlem News, Lifestyle, History & Renaissance since 2003.

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