Robert Wyatt writes tribute to the late Ornette Coleman

Experimental musician praises the ‘timeless vocal beauty of the actual sequences of notes and phrases he could come up with, and the feeling of pure living joy of playing they can communicate’

Robert Wyatt has paid tribute to the late jazz musician Ornette Coleman. In a eulogy published by the Wire, the musician described his admiration for the innovative artist who died on 11 June.

“What has always warmed my heart,” he writes, “has little to do with his influence on younger improvisors. It is the timeless vocal beauty of the actual sequences of notes and phrases he could come up with, and the feeling of pure living joy of playing they can communicate.”

As well as describing Coleman’s earliest recordings as “moving”, his voice “as if he were the last surviving speaker of an ancient language”, the revered experimental artist also writes about meeting the late musician. As he recalls:

Did he ever raise his speaking voice in anger? It’s hard to imagine. What I remember is his (often mentioned) amused but welcoming Old World courtesy. (He was, by the way, as is the wonderful Archie Shepp, a very snappy dresser.)

Following Coleman’s death, many artists have published tributes to the free jazz innovator. Caribou’s Dan Snaith, St Vincent, Blur’s Graham Coxon and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello were among the names who celebrated the late musician’s life online, with Morello calling Coleman a “titan … who created, explored, defined and perfected free jazz”. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea meanwhile stated: “Ornette Coleman is the most beautiful man that ever lived.”

Coleman died at the age of 85 in Manhattan, where he had lived, after suffering a cardiac arrest.


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