navigation list Ornette Coleman Events


Bits and pieces of information about past and future appearances by Ornette Coleman.

The Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, produced by KnitMedia and sponsored by Bell Atlantic, is a four-city tour of related festivals, held in Washington D.C. (May 4-7), Philadelphia (May 11-14), Boston (May 17-21) and New York (June 1 - 11). Of interest to those visiting these pages is the last festival, which will include an evening of performances by Ornette Coleman.

An Evening with Ornette Coleman, Thursday, June 1, 2000. Battery Park, The Lawn (NYC)

  • The Ornette Coleman Trio with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins
  • Global Expression Project: Ornette Coleman Trio with Charnett Moffett and Denardo Coleman, with special guests Badal Roy, Sultan Khan and Probaker Karaker
  • Freedom Symbol: Composition for 20 Piece Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

Note the similarity of the first two parts of this concert to parts of the 1998 Umbria Festival appearance reported later on this page.

Ornette played his own birthday party in New York City in March 2000--the start of his seventh decade on the planet. Although his actual birthday is March 19, 1930, the celebration evidently took place on March 10. The only details I have came from sketchy reports on a couple of lists: The birthday party took place on Friday, March 10, at Joe's Pub in NYC. Ornette and Charlie Haden played a duet on Law Years. Later Jack DeJohnette came out to perform with Charnett Moffet and Dewey Redman. Reports indicate that the party was webcast by

The following reports were posted back when we first put up these web pages. Given the paucity of appearances by Coleman, it seems worth preserving them...


Umbria Jazz Festival. Ornette Coleman was the major performer at this festival, performing a a three-night show he called Civilization '98. The Schedule:

July 13, 1998. In All Language, a concert joining Coleman with one of his earliest rhythm sections, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins, with saxophonist Lee Konitz the unexpected substitute for the late Don Cherry.

July 14, 1998. Global Expression, with Ornette's India Project. This joined Ornette, son Denardo Coleman on drums, bassist Brad Jones and tablaist Badal Roy with a group of traditional Indian musicians including Ustad Sultan Khan on Sarangi and vocalist Prabhakar Karekar. Tenores di Bitto from Sardenga was also featured.

July 15, 1998. Tone Dialing. featuring Ornette Coleman and Prime Time, with dancers and a video installation artist.

Umbria Jazz 98

Perugia Italy

Ornette's major appearance in 1997 was an unprecedented three-day concert series in New York City. David Hargis, at that time one of our contacts inside GRP Impulse, provided us with some details:

…Wednesday was his performance of "Skies Of America" and last night was the "reunion" concert with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. "Skies" was plagued by sound problems. Prime Time was occassionally muffled (I could only hear parts of Denardo's kit, usually Badal Roy was inaudible, and the upright bass was completely enveloped by the surrounding din) and that made the transitions from NY Philharmonic to the octet awkward - unbalanced and distracting. There were, however, wonderful moments. It was certainly an event.

The reunion concert was beautiful. The trio performed, there was an intermission, and then Kenny Barron and Wallace Roney joined (with a couple appearances by vocalists - the folks from Sound Museum, I think, although I have yet to confirm - doing songs strangely Disneyesque). The choice of Wallace and Kenny seemed strange, but it worked very well.

Last night of the Ornette show was not quite up to the reunion, but was tremendously fun nonetheless. Video played in the background, three dancers on stage (different types represented: one hip-hop, one African, one modern), Prime Time in full force, and a few performance artists prior to intermission (a pair of limber, scantily clad women frolicking on a bed of nails, a plate spinner who swallowed the pole as the plate spun on top, and a women walking - and jumping - on broken glass).

Here's the band as listed in the program:

Ornette (as, v, t); Denardo Coleman (d); Dave Bryant (keyboards); Bradley Jones (acoustic bass); Al MacDowell (elec. bass); Chris Rosenberg (g); Kenny Wessel (g); Badal Roy (tabla); Avenda Khanijah Ali (female rapper); Wunmi Olaiya (female African dancer); Veronica Fierro Fernandez (female modern dancer); Lakai Worrel (male hip-hop dancer); Jacky Kamhaji (video artist)

Lou Reed also performed two songs, later Laurie Anderson performed one, and then they both did one together. I felt this interrupted the flow of the show and was generally unexciting. I can see Lou Reed any day of the year, but Ornette shows up here once a decade. Also, I believe there was one female singer not listed in the program. I did not catch her name.

"Skies" was performed by the same musicians along with the NY Philharmonic and directed by Kurt Masur. The reunion show was:

Ornette (as,v,t); Charlie Haden (b); Billy Higgins (d)

first half was the trio, after intermission they were joined by:

Kenny Barron (p); Wallace Roney (t)

and two singers (one white female, one black male) whose names I do not know - it was in yesterday's NY Times, but I can't find it. The Times described the vocal tunes as "dreadful," but I didn't think they were that bad. Not as good as "Hakuna Matata," though.

 (Ornette Coleman: ?Civilization Lincoln Center Festival 97, at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC, July 9 - 11 1997, Tuesday through Friday. Skies, revised for this performance, was performed on two consecutive nights; the trio performance followed; and on the last night Ornette appeared with Prime Time. In addition to the Times review which Dave mentioned, there’s a long review in Jazziz and other magazines will probably also cover the event—as Dave said, Ornette shows up once in a decade…).

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