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Friday, May 5, 2023

Ornette the Composer

 Not to knock Ornette's playing, which I love, but he is actually great at writing tunes, and by tunes I mean melodies, tuneful things with an almost pop catchiness. It is hard to single out which ones are my favorites. 

An early one is "The Blessing." It starts with an exuberant upward figure: ba, bababa, baa, baa BAAA.  Then a downward "answer" to it, which sounds decisively conclusive. It is a perfect bop tune, if played in that style. Gonzalo Rubalcaba covers it, as does John Coltrane. 

There is "Lonely Woman," of course--perhaps his best known tune. There is cover of it by the Kronos Quartet, on one of the first CDs I ever had.  

I've always been partial to "I heard it on the Radio." 

Last night, I was thinking of one that has a 12-bar blues structure, but I don't remember what it is called. The melody was vivid in my mind. 

From "In all languages" there is "Latin Genetics," one of the only Ornette songs that my ex could stand. Very catchy, with a downward moving arpeggio, that still sounds joyful despite its downward movement.  

So many of the songs have the 32-bar AABA structure. How much avant-garde feeling can be stuffed into a traditional form? Quite a bit, it turns out. The bass can still play 4/4 walking time, the drummer can still play basic time. The horn players still play the head, improvise in turns, and then play the head again. It is so similar to basic bop, but so different in feeling.  


Andrew Shields said...

Yes, Ornette’s tunes so often have wonderful hummable melodies! I wonder if the blues you’re thinking of might be “Turnaround” (although I’m not sure it’s a 12-bar form).

Jonathan said...

Yes, that's the one!