A new box set celebrates the legacy of Ornette Coleman.

Ornette Coleman

Following Ornette Coleman’s 84th birthday in March 2014, drummer  Denardo Coleman decided to honor his dad with an all-star concert celebration.  The elder Ornette Coleman had been in poor health, and his son realized  that the jazz innovator’s playing days were limited. When the day of the  concert came — June 12 of that year — Ornette performed two of his  major compositions, “Ramblin’” and “Turnaround,” but for the most part  just enjoyed the remarkable musicians who gathered to celebrate his  legacy in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Participants reflected the vast reach  of Coleman’s influence, encompassing jazz heavyweights Henry  Threadgill and David Murray, rock stars Patti Smith and Flea and the  Morocco-based Master Musicians of Jajouka.  Ornette Coleman died a year later,  almost to the day.

Fortunately, the  concert was filmed  and recorded for  posterity, as was the  memorial service at  Riverside Church in  New York City. Titled  Celebrate Ornette, the  results have been  collected in a box set  encompassing three  CDs, four 128-gram  vinyl records and two  DVDs.  An accompanying book features essays from Denardo Coleman  and Ornette disciple James Blood Ulmer, among others, as well as  plenty of photos of the iconic saxophonist.

Denardo served as producer, selecting 24 performances from the  concert and the memorial. He also led the house band, the funky jazz  quintet Denardo Vibe,who play on about half the concert tracks.  Highlights include Threadgill, Murray and Flea’s read of “Broadway  Blues”; Geri Allen, Joe Lovano and Wallace Roney Jr.’s take on “The  Sphinx”; Ulmer and Ravi Coltrane’s “Peace” (reprised at the memorial by  Allen and Coltrane as a duet); a couple of tracks by poetess Smith; and  moving solo turns by Pharoah Sanders and Cecil Taylor at the memorial.

A labor of love, Celebrate Ornette contains fresh, affectionate takes  on Coleman’s songbook, and terrific visuals, from the DVDs to the  photos to extras such as a program from the memorial. The premium  set can be ordered at Ornettecoleman.com for $275, as can a five-disc set  (three CDs and two DVDs) for $100. — Bob Weinberg


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