Gunter Shuller 1959 statement on Ornette Coleman...what you think?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by SteSte, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    i just read here

    The Story Behind The Lenox School of Jazz 1959

    this statement from Gunther Shuller:

    - I remember vividly Ornette Coleman just going out of his mind the first time he heard Jelly Roll Morton’s Black Bottom Stomp – he thought it was the best thing he’d ever heard in his life. I played a lot of Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, God knows what, and a lot of it was a revelation to him about his own heritage.”

    When in Lenox Ornette was 29.
    Three "jazz" album, two for Contemporary and one for Atlantic.

    To me usually avant-garde musician has a deep knowledge of the tradition and heritage, sometimes more than mainstream musicians.
    I dont know why this statement and i dont know what to think.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    In 1959, reissues of older music weren't as common as they are today. Only record collectors had access to many of the old 78s.

    For instance, the first LP reissue of blues guitarist Robert Johnson was in 1961 and the his remaining recordings weren't reissued until 1970 (mainly because rock stars like Eric Clapton were covering his songs by then).

    The first CBS LP reissue of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five/Hot Seven sides was in 1955.

    Jelly Roll Morton's "Black Bottom Stomp" was first reissued on an RCA 10" LP in 1952.

    So it's not unusual that Ornette might not have heard those sides. He certainly would have been aware of Louis Armstrong, but perhaps not of his earliest recordings.
    Winoman, meandering, J_Bass and 6 others like this.
  3. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    So he wasn't having access to records as other musicians.
    Interesting , thanks .
  4. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    i can only imagine what it must have been like for ornette to come of age in ft. worth, texas in the 30s and 40s.

    edit: by this i mean he must have been culturally impoverished and racially repressed. btw, i just had alexa play 'black bottom stomp' by jelly roll morton...1992 remaster. my life is an embarrassment of riches and privilege.
    SteSte likes this.
  5. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Yes, it is interesting because we have two faces of a medal.
    On one side you can really see the cultural impoverishment and racism and a very difficult situation to overcome.
    The other side that i see is a white rich man that had the privilege to study classical music that try to convince us how an avant-garde black musician is not aware of his heritage. Patronizing him.
    Lot of afroamerican musicians was coming from nowhere in the states but had the chance to listen music from radio from friends disc from venues from other (maybe rich) musicians.
    I suppose Ornette at 29 had lot of friends and musicians that had without doubt records and knowledge, assuming that he had never absorbed his heritage from nobody at 29 it make me smelling something that i don't understand.
    it is really strange to me the starting point, why tell this story in Ornette? I listened hundreds of interviews and readed books on jazz as oral cultural tradition and all musicians that was coming also from the poorest and racist places was fully aware of the heritage because oral cultural exchange and friends and the music and the history , of course within the practical limitations of the situation.
    Why only Ornette?
  6. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    "To me usually avant-garde musician has a deep knowledge of the tradition and heritage, sometimes more than mainstream musicians."

    It aint necessarily so.

    Playing music for someone who's hearing it for the first time is not patronizing. It's sharing. I'm 68, went to a serious music school, have been a professional musician for 50 years, and I still get turned on to music I've never heard. I can easily believe Ornette, coming from where he grew up, was hearing Jelly Roll Morton for the first time when Gunther played it for him.
    Winoman and SteSte like this.
  7. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Yes i agre with all that you wrote.
    Playing music for other is not patronizing for sure!
    And i'm 55 i'm in jazz since i was 14 self taught and non professional and me too when i heard something never heard it turn me on and happens very often. And i believe that Ornette was hearing that song for the first time.
    Yes. I agree fully.
    I simply ask why do this statement on this very delicate and sensitive arguments related to class race racism access to knowledge and in 1959 and relative to one of the major 'avant garde' black musician.
    If i was there at the place i was staying respectfully in silence with nothing to say to the mass.
    ...I don't know i'm confused , you are right but it seems to me a lack of gentleness a lack of sensitivity say that a Ornette don't have a full knowledge of his heritage.
  8. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    In the other side i see how great was to share 'old' music to an avant garde musician , Gunther Shuller was one of the most influential man in jazz...this is obviously kindness and sharing and gentleness...
  9. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I have zero issue with what Gunther is quoted as saying. I went to school with a black bass player who came to study classical music and knew little about jazz. We hung out and did a lot of listening to all kinds of music, but Miles really got to him. He ended up being a very fine and respected jazz bassist.

    " seems to me a lack of gentleness a lack of sensitivity say that a Ornette don't have a full knowledge of his heritage."

    Or just a simple recognition that he hadn't heard a lot of music at that time.
    lurk and SteSte like this.
  10. As opposed to Coltrane & Cecil Taylor, Ornette had more of a combination of genius and misunderstandings. Be cause it is art, misunderstandings can lead to great work.

    Now, there are far more free players that can play straight ahead jazz on a high level than vice versa. Pretty much 100% of free jazz musicians have a far better grasp on the recorded history of traditional jazz, very few straight ahead players go very deep in terms of the history of free music.
    That isn't a big mystery - free music is often harsh and unpredictable! Not a lot of people want to hear it, jazz is nicer to listen to.
    Most straight ahead players just are not interested and it isn't a problem, really. It is sort of like as a meat eater, I have good grasp of eating and preparing vegetables! Vegans on the other hand..
    Also, free jazz includes jazz, the more comfortable you are with traditional jazz the more options you will have.
    J_Bass and SteSte like this.
  11. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    so true...
  12. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    A Straight Ahead example of "Free Hyperbole".
    IMFO, of course.
    damonsmith likes this.
  13. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    You know, nothing come from nothing.
    That's is on music and everything.
    For that reason people recognized as 'innovators' or 'avant garde' or 'free player' or 'new thing' in order to develop the step ahead they needed to know really well the steps before their music their history their language.
    You can call 'free hyperbole' you can laught you can think what you like but if you want do something that come out of the blue you need to know very well the blue. very well.
    Think at John Coltrane you can listen 'interstellar space' and think that he is making only noise part of a 'free hyperbole' or you can think that is something really ahead.
    More free is the music more seriousness and consciousness is needed to avoid non sense.
    Ornette was knowing well what was music concepts and all around just playing , for that reason a proposed this thread..::sorry for my poor english language...
    GlenParks likes this.
  14. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Sorry, SteSte - You may have misunderstood my comment - this is the part of damon's post that I categorized as "....Hyperbole" - "Pretty much 100%...".
    This ("...100%") claim, is a made-up number, Not Meant to Be Taken Literally. In My Opinion, of course.
    It was not intended as a slight against Free Jazz practitioners.
    Thank You for your interest.
  15. Well, 100% of the free jazz musicians I have met in my life have had a solid handle on the RECORDED history of jazz, exactly zero straight ahead musicians I've met have more than light understanding of free jazz recorded history, it tends to end at Coltrane and possibly get to Ornette, Cecil or Sun Ra, a few bassists like Barre Phillips or Mark Dresser, that is about it.
  16. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Again, your "free" use of language, (and subsequent hyperbolic statement), necessitates (yet another) walk-back of a previous claim.
    You might want to explore a more exact and conventional (straight ahead?) use of language to minimize the need for clarification and correction of your hyperbolic statement(s).
    Just a suggestion. IMO.
    (I realize you may be in the midst of a cross-country move.)
    damonsmith likes this.
  17. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    please i don't want generate polemic , just what you think and opinion and ideas on Gunther Shuller statement, i'm interested on just know why a rich white man in the fifties was so urged to give publicity on the supposed ignorance of Ornette.
    (Music is one and everybody that play know well the reality).
  18. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    'Generate polemic' = creste controversy...
    Sorry for my poor english. My point is really to understand the context: i'm italian so when i read a statement like this might be out of focus. that's why i share this
    Don Kasper likes this.
  19. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Sou troppo tardi...
    SteSte likes this.
  20. I think the thing is, knowing "straight jazz" history is a prerequisite for getting anywhere with free jazz, where it is not all important for straight ahead players to know anything about free music, though it might be useful. So, it isn't hyperbole or a walk back, it is as sure as saying all basses have tuners, or all straight ahead players can play a quarter note.
    There are other strains of free improvisation where the need for that knowledge varies.

    Back to the question, I think Schuller was on Ornette's side. I think there is a bit of a thing for people on that side of things to glorify the outsider-ness of African American artists. The same thing happens with the painter Basquiat, where they want to push him as a "street artist", when in fact, he was a member of the Brooklyn museum since he was 7, and completely versed in art history. The graffiti project he had was a conceptual text art project writing aphorisms on walls with the heteronym "Samo".

    At the end of the day we can never know enough about everything. The best we can do is know enough to not be worried or threaten by the things we don't know, and happy to learn them when the lack of information becomes apparent.
    SteSte likes this.
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