Ornette Coleman: Reflections of the Shape of Jazz to Come

Flea and Patti Smith get their shuffle on while Bachir Attar’s Master Musicians of Jajouka perform in the front room of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They were performing as part of Ornette Coleman’s Meltdown festival.

My friend Charlie described the Master Musician’s strange percussive Moroccan ditties as the soundtrack to dying of malaria in the desert. He isn’t far off. When they joined Ornette Coleman on stage at the end of his ‘Reflections of the Shape of Jazz to Come’ performance we were witness to an auditory assault of stunning proportions.

Coleman’s musical genius is not in any doubt but it sure as shit wasn’t an easy listen. If it was an album you’d have to spin it front to back several times before it began to sink its teeth into you, but once it chomped down it wouldn’t let go until it was sure you’d paid your pound of brain-flesh.Patti Smith herself joined Coleman’s band on the night for an improvised drunken romp which, while not as spectacular as his later collaboration with the Master Musicians of Jajouka still had us nodding our heads in quiet approval.

Ultimately, Ornette Coleman’s ‘Reflections of the Shape of Jazz to Come’ was an excellent but difficult performance by an incredibly important player. Those of us lucky to have seen it were left with more questions than answers, but I get the feeling that’s just the way Ornette Coleman wanted it.

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