Tribute to Ornette Coleman

Origami plays Ornette

One of my strongest musical memories is of dancing around the family lounge room to Ornette Coleman’s album, “Dancing in Your Head” – I can still see the album cover leaning up next to the stereo. I must have been about seven years of age. The feeling I remember as my sister and I jumped about the room was one of joy and happiness. This was the album I put on when I first heard of Ornette’s recent passing and it still makes me want to dance.

Ornette Coleman, 1930 – 2015

Origami was formed out of my enjoyment of playing alto – my big biggest influences about the way the instrument can or should sound range from Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Maceo Parker, David Sanborn, Anthony Braxton, Tim O’Dywer, Paul Simmons (my father) and Ornette Coleman. Though, most of these impressed me through their technical prowess, my father and Ornette’s influence seems most prominent through their love of sound and melody, played with great spirit. 

As I say, in the beginning it was Ornette’s joyful and spirited playing that appealed to me, but as I have matured as a player and a listener, I began to hear past the seemingly naive, folk-sounding melodies and became more aware of just how developed Ornette’s harmonic, melodic and technical sensibility was. Having the opportunity to finally hear Ornette live in Australia at both his Sydney and Adelaide concerts in 2008 was worth every cent – he was very much a man demonstrating the depth of his learnings over decades of artistic endeavour. The suppleness of his lines, the tonal variation of his playing from tune to tune, the distillation of an approach to music-making over a lifetime – all of this was heightened by the live experience. My brief encounter with Ornette at the after party in Sydney served only to reinforce both the generosity and enigmatic character for which Ornette was known.

Adam, Maceo Wood, Greg Wood with Ornette, 2008 (photo by Candy Bryce)

I have never really played Ornette’s music in public previously – Ornette’s music has always been so strongly personal,and instead I have followed the example he and others have set of presenting one’s own original music. But on the occasion of Ornette’s passing, it feels important to acknowledge, celebrate and explore his influence on my own music making and upon the musical approach of Origami, which from its beginning has included a range of songs by other songwriters with a view to stripping them back to their melodic and structural essence. This in turn seems to be at the heart of Ornette’s own explorations.
For Origami’s upcoming concert at Uptown Jazz Cafe, we will perform a cross section of compositions from throughout Ornette’s recorded career, spanning almost 60 years, from such albums as:
Tomorrow is the Question (1959), Something Else (1959), The Empty Foxhole (1967), New York is Now (1968), Body Meta (1978), Of Human feelings (1982), Song X (1986, Virgin Beauty (1988), Sound Grammar (2006 – winner 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Music)
Ornette remained somewhat of a maverick throughout his career but forget about the various criticisms he received whether about his plastic saxophone, tuning, discarding of music convention, adoption of electric instruments or his mysterious statements – he may not have invented free jazz, but he definitely was its poster boy and as a result was responsible for changing the history or jazz and music in general. 

Come and listen to the beauty of his melodies, ranging from the haunting “Lonely Woman” to the infectious groove and joy of “Macho Woman” or “Police People” – come and share in celebrating the music of one of music’s great innovators.

Origami plays Ornette

Uptown Jazz Cafe

Sun 26 July – 8:30-10:30pm (doors open 8pm)

Upstairs, 177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

$18 & 12 Concession

Adam Simmons – alto sax
Howard Cairns – double bass
Hugh Harvey – drums

and introducing special guest
Noah Simmons – drums

Thanks, and I hope to see you there as we pay tribute to the great Ornette Coleman.
Adam Simmons
13 July 2015

Adam is a Temby Australia artist.

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