The Jazzcat

Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

by on Nov.17, 2004, under News

Slide Show


about the ticket to have, Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman on a double

bill! Normally, when I go to any jazz event, I always take a look

around to see if there are any familiar jazz faces in the house. This

time everyone I knew was outside standing in line trying to get a

ticket. Luckily, they all did. The house was packed for a sold out

performance. Before each performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall,

there is the familiar sound of cell phones ringing super loud. This the

Disney’s way to tell everyone to make sure to turn off all of their

electronic devices and as usual it gets a little chuckle. But, tonight

the music is no laughing matter. These are some serious jazz fans mixed

amongst the subscribers and we are ready for jazz to be heard!



stage is lit in a calming lavender and we the audience came to hear

some of the legends of our music perform. I am on the side facing the

door on stage where the musicians are and as it opens, out walks

Charlie and his band. I wasn’t sure if Ornette and Charlie were going

to be playing together but, it turned out that they each had their own

players for the evening. Each musician goes to their prospective

instrument that is awaiting them on the stage. The audience applause is

thunderous and Charlie edges them to continue and they do. Charlie has

a new disc out called “Land of the Sun” which was arranged by his

wonderfully talented pianist, Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Ernie Watts is ready

to play as well as Ignacio Berroa on drums, Miguel Zenon on Alto,

Michael Rodriguez on Trumpet, Oriente Lopez on flute and one of are

very own guitarist, Mr. Larry Koonse.




last time I saw Charlie, his arm was in a sling. I believe it was a

case of carpel tunnel. However the only thing slinging tonight is pure,

rich magic!



Zenon was blowin’ down the Disney just as he did a while back when he

played at Royce Hall with the SF Collective only this time in a much

calmer manor. The music from Charlie Haden and his band was not on the

wild side at all. Many of us expected the fire, agility and freedom

that is usually synonymous with the name Ornette Coleman but, this is

Charlie’s set, and the music is calm, controlled, even toned and

beautiful. If you turned the jazz dial in your ears down from avant to

fire to calm, beautiful and peaceful, then this is a set you thoroughly




thing I love about a jazz audience is that we the audience participate

and are always a part of the performance. We don’t have to wait to

share our appreciation, it is immediate. Ernie, the statesman and

constant gentleman of gentle tones and fluid sound, is such a given in

this equation. Gonzalo arranged these pieces with such heart. Such warm

love blankets the walls of the Disney and the sound is pristine.

Charlie’s solos can make any venue seem intimate and Ignacio brushes a

light coat that marches and provides the time and the forward movement.



Haden is positioned on a platform with just him, his bass and a monitor

all to his self. This must enhance the resonance of the sound of his

instrument. You could certainly feel it clearly as it penetrated your

body. The temperature seems pretty warm but, I saw many of the

musicians on stage were warming their hands. Their temperature has to

be just right to keep the music flowing that way. The sound in this

hall is so spectacular and I am so happy that jazz is on the calendar.

The band is always morphing, adding and subtracting players as each

tune sees fit. When you listen, you hear every player’s contribution

clearly, even as the instruments are interwoven in the fabric of each

piece. No one has to shout or scream to be heard. I don’t know Gonzalo

personally but, I can tell you that he must be the biggest romantic.

Larry Koonse joins the band on stage and the front line gets to chill

because he has got this tune covered. He and Gonzalo exchange such

beautiful melodies on “Nostalgia” with Ignacio providing the rhythm

with the fire turned on medium heat.

Yes a beautiful set of mellow music, quite the contrast of what was to come….


Additional Photos


the same door after intermission, I saw one of the coolest cats stroll

through. With cheers, applause, love and happiness, Mr. Ornette Coleman

waltzed in with a blue suit, a lid with pork and pie and a smile that

said; Hello, thank you very much, my name is Ornette Coleman and I came

to play!



there were many who shared my sentiment for the underdog avant guard

jazz musician; responsible for creations with the drive and tenacity to

make people either frown, smile or ponder, “Where in life does this

music fit for me?” Well, if your ears are open, there is a path that

leads straight to the heart. From the first note, the statements were

made and court was in session. Judgment day: Kerry, Bush or Ornette





remember the feeling you had earlier this month when you did not know

who would win the race. Today, Ornette was on the podium and he

communicated with fire and desire for the music to be heard. This was

such a total contrast from the first set. World be free was the key

with lessons and expressions flowing freely from a trilogy of

instruments. The warm up is over and the game is ready to begin!



hope is that everyone had their big ears on because that is a

prerequisite for the message of the music. Now, the music was big, but

Ornette was very humble playing it. It flowed with such ease from

tenor, violin and trumpet and his presence gave you a feeling of

experiencing music as it was some 30 to 40 years ago when jazz was free

and the masses sought out the music to understand it. Quite a

difference from the modern day imposters who lead the sheep into

believing that jazz can be smooth as waves or quiet like a storm.

Artistic types wondered while bureaucrats blunder, “Why, That’s Not

Jazz”. My question is where did you get your definition of jazz? The

definition of jazz comes from listening to the music and yourself, not

to what others tell you it should be. Believer or non-believer, the

choice is yours.



is a part of a culture that spoke their own language musically and made

their voice be heard, no matter what people thought. Just like back in

the day, there are those who hate and those who appreciate. But, one

thing that can’t be denied is the powerful energetic passionate

expression that took over the walls of the Disney Concert Hall. The

players were in a diamond formation with the powerhouse Denardo

Coleman, encased behind a sound barrier on drums, playing so fast that

sometimes, both of his arms looked like a blur. On the east and west

points of the precious stone were two acoustic bass players Greg Cohen

workin’ the bow and Tom Falanga plucking the bottom. This concept of

two basses is quite a lovely perspective on the music. This is like a

play where four stories are going on in different scenarios but, each

has a common denominator and they are all related. It can be modal and

never ending and then all of a sudden, it’s done. Forget about the

resolve. I would not quite call it a symphony but, the music theory can

be synonymous. The best of free artistic expression elaborately plotted

and planned to make since and not make since at the same time, an

oxymoron of jazz music.



yes, they clap politely, but when the time was right it was, “Come on

honey, I can’t take any more of this, let’s go”. Yes, that’s right,

leave us all thee of little faith and no comprehension, the bedtime

hour doth approach rapidly. And off they went in droves. It was quite a

sight to see but, just think of all the many years that Ornette has

watched this behavior while holding his horn on stage. What must he

think and yet, he remains and continues to deliver jazz music because

he stands for artistic expression. They are creations from above so it

has to be right. What must it feel like to be an icon of the music that

is misunderstood by many while loved and respected by the musical

minority. Is Jazz the small pond? I would certainly hope not. Well,

those who remained cheered extra loud to compensate for those who

vacated the premise much too early. It was almost like boiling out the

impurities leaving the clean pure refreshing vitamins and minerals for

those who appreciate eating right; a healthy dose of music for the

soul. Ornette is a cat who has been laying down beauty for years and

still seems to be misunderstood. All that really matters is that he

continues on his path to reach his destination and that we are still

invited to go along for the ride.


I am

such a big fan of the bow. I don’t think that all of the bass players

of the world pull it out often enough. When Greg Cohen and Ornette do a

bass and violin duo, the music takes on a whole new dimension and you

can’t help but be cast in its spell. Does it make sense? YES. These

cats play with a fire, passion and energy that are never ending. Each

piece is like one more addition to a continuous suite of sweet music.

As a grand finally, Charlie Haden comes back and joins Ornette and the

band. Now we have three bass players with Greg and Tom each working the

bow on both sides Charlie. Charlie is the epicenter of the diamond

formation and it is like a Phil Jackson offense, world class!



you like to know the secret to understanding the music? Well, the

secret to getting the intricacies of this music it to open up and let

it be exactly what it is! Leave the drama and all of the other

frustrations, judgments, relationship and money problems at the door

and just except the music with malice towards none. Take the frown off

of you face, this is a concept for life. Just think what the world

would be like if those same principles were applied to you fellow man!

Imagine that. The basis of jazz is to speak your mind, express your

emotions and feel the love!


Thank you Ornette, the love was felt!

 Click Here and listen to an interview with Ornette

LeRoy Downs


LeRoy Downs


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