Tag Archives: Ornette Coleman


Somebody once told me that Ornette wrote “Peace” for a friend of his who’d recently passed.  I was surprised and honestly a little skeptical when I heard this, the song always struck me as more playful than mournful, its loosened harmonies still leaning much more toward major tonalities than minor, its tempo, while more subdued than many of his numbers, is certainly no dirge.

Ornette Coleman – Peace

I’ve never been able to confirm or deny this claim, but either way it was a formative experience in my understanding of music.  The act of considering “Peace” to be about death forced me to consider that identical emotions can spring from different souls and sound unrecognizable to each other; which was in invaluable lesson about music and life that has served me well whether or not Ornette was thinking of his deceased friend when he composed this now classic piece.  I have to admit, now that Mr. Coleman himself has passed on, “Peace” does sound a bit more melancholy than it once did.  I just wonder who’s going to play at his funeral.

Ornette Coleman – Holiday for a Graveyard (recorded live at John Coltrane’s funeral, 1967)

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I always wondered if rap would develop along the same path jazz did when free jazz came along.

Ornette Coleman – Free

All the gestures are clearly still jazz gestures, but the theoretical harmonic glue that usually holds those gestures together in unfree jazz is dissolved.  The gestures take on a life of their own outside of their usual boundaries and seem to float chaotically like released balloons.

Rap has different restrictions to break from since harmony and melody have consistently (thankfully) taken a back seat to rhythm and texture.  Deviations in texture have been common for decades, but a true break from clear rhythmic structure is far less common.  Some spoken word and some Lil’ B experiments remove pulse altogether, but this isn’t quite the same as what free jazz did.  It’s not like Ornette removed notes from his music, he just freed them from their usual restrictions.  I think this Tree/Chris Crack song is the best example I’ve heard of a rap version of this.

Tree + Chris Crack – Marv

As with free jazz, all the gestures are still rap gestures, but the drum programming is confusing enough that it’s easy to lose the bar and both rappers seem to pay no attention to the pulse and rap at their own chosen writhing pace, it has that same refreshing chaos that I hear in the free jazz that I love.

I’d welcome any other examples if anybody knows some (and if this post makes sense to anybody but me).

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