Weekend Wind Down: Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman
I’m a closet jazzbo. It’s a not-so-secret shame. I was reminded of that when I saw that Ornette Coleman passed away. Some of my unhealthy obsession with jazz seems embarrassing in retrospect. My most confounding nerdy pleasure was the old school math rock feel of it, with the complex musical theory and organized chaos behind it. It’s obvious ancestor was free jazz, which Ornette Coleman basically invented. Beyond the “time no changes” ideals of Miles Davis’ Second Quintet, Ornette believed that improvisation was still fake, not extreme enough. Having a prescribed set of changes to him was just as bad as writing out his solos ahead of time. He opted for a chaos more pure. And the fact that he performed with a man, Don Cherry, who made the pocket trumpet (yes, the pocket trumpet is a real thing and it’s sort of awesome) an actual fiery blaster of madness, helped him out.
Ornette Coleman did a lot in his career, a lot that helped make jam bands possible (dubious) and John Coltrane’s later career possible (wonderful until dubious). I often wonder if people like Ornette and their disregard for keys, chords, and all the usual musical trimming also helped make things like hip hop and EDM possible. Almost that a non-musician could walk in there and just purely express themselves over rhythm at a primal level. I hear that in this song.
“Lonely Woman” starts with a chilling bassline, then a horny wail that could be anything from sorrow to a rallying cry. It’s stuck with me every time I’ve heard of it. It’s not exactly relaxing, but it’s not disturbing either. It is, as the small handful of jazz tracks that have stuck with me over the almost thousands I have in my library, cathartic on a purely emotional level. The rattling drums and minimal touches of piano only added to the blooming sonic palette. Are Ornette’s other songs as good? Probably not. But now that he’s left us, he deserves to be remembered. And this track is to my mind the best to remember him by.
Like the track? Support the artist and buy it wherever you do such things. Oh, and here’s the Weekend Wind Down playlist.