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June 15, 2015

David Harrington Remembers Ornette Coleman

“I’ll never forget the first rehearsal we had with Ornette Coleman in 1986. He had written a really cool piece for Joseph Celli and Kronos called In Honor of NASA and the Planetary Soloist and we were playing the ballad section. We played it as well together and as in tune as we possibly could. Ornette very calmly, gently and with absolute certainty said it needed to be more together. So we tried again. Again Ornette said it needed to be together. I said something like “I’m not sure we can play much more together” and then asked Ornette to demonstrate for us what he meant.

When he sang his music for us it was clear that instantly Ornette had given us a new idea of what ‘together’ meant. Ornette’s idea of togetherness was not ruled by a grid and micro-seconds. In fact the more ‘not together’ we played, the happier Ornette was with our togetherness. Ever since that rehearsal we have had Ornette to thank for his liberating idea of good ensemble being a gathering place for musical energy and individual spirit: the more you can put of yourself in the notes you play, the greater the chance they might be together with someone else’s notes.

Hearing Ornette tell us about harmolodics with his beautiful soft voice made it all seem totally clear during our rehearsals together almost thirty years ago.  His amazing, unmistakeable saxophone tone and his singular compositional voice might be the best definition we will ever have.”

-David Harrington, Founder & Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet

Kronos with Ornette Coleman and Joseph Celli

Kronos Quartet, Ornette Coleman, and Joseph Celli
Photo Credit: Lona Foote


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