Every time I saw him was a religious experience. His sound, his sound. His sound and song were one. His love, his beautiful benedictions.
Once I was riding in a car with John Zorn and Trevor Dunn. Zorn had these mix tapes he would take with him when he traveled. We were listening to one when this track came on with a French singer and the unmistakable sound of Ornette Coleman. I recognized that it was a track I had read about in David Wild’s discography of Ornette, and in Litweiler’s biography, but never heard. I was excited, and mentioned that I had read that Ornette had asked for and received $10,000 to play on this one song, a single for Claude Nougaro. “Worth every penny!”, said Zorn. As we listened to the song, motoring up highway 80, the sound of Ornette, his melodies so beautiful they made you laugh, seemed to radiate out of the speaker like a glimpse of Divine Eternal Love.
Somehow I never even contemplated life without Ornette before; it felt so shocking this morning.
Charlie, Billy, Don, Ed, Dewey, Ornette…
Remember Marty Erlich’s song I Don’t Know This World Without Don Cherry? The world is once again a strange, disorienting place.
Claude Nougaro with Ornette Coleman, Barclay Records, 1975.