Dig that crazy sound

Angular and abstruse, Ornette Coleman continues to influence new artists

by Keri Carlson

Ornette Coleman has been pissing off jazz listeners since the 1960s.

Nowadays, it usually takes provocative lyrics or artwork for an artist to stir controversy, but Coleman did it simply by not following the rules of standard jazz notation.

Coleman is credited with the creation of free jazz and the idea of a musical style that allows freeform improvisation.

The controversial musician will appear Friday at Ted Mann Concert Hall as part of the Walker Art Center’s Festival Dancing in Your Head.

Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at the Walker, said the festival was designed to showcase Coleman’s influence on music.

“He changed how we listened to music and what we consider to be beautiful,” Bither said.

Coleman’s influence extends far beyond just the jazz genre.

“There are younger bands that don’t even know Ornette but somehow have a sense of freedom. Bands like Sonic Youth that are postpunk, I think, have a direct lineage,” Bither said.

The first two days of the festival directly celebrate Coleman’s music. Today, local and national artists will perform their interpretations of Coleman’s compositions. Friday will feature a performance by Coleman and his quartet, featuring Denardo Coleman (drums), Greg Cohen (bass) and Tony Falanga (bass).

The last day of the festival looks at the effect Coleman has had on modern music – the music will be original works but will embody the spirit of sound exploration Ornette Coleman pioneered.

Bither said that during the eight hours of music Saturday, Somali singers will sit next to laptop artists.

“It’s like (Ornette) Coleman to defy boundaries,” he said.