Ornette Coleman, Jazz Festival, Cheltenham

A masterclass in jazz history

Some concerts transcend the usual rigmarole of artists presenting their musical wares to an audience and receiving applause, becoming in the process a major event. Ornette's outing at Cheltenham Town Hall was quite definitely an event, and a special one at that.

Now 75 years old, but looking a good 20 years younger, he arrived with his acoustic quartet. It was a group that carried resonances of his bands of the early days - the 1960 double quartet with two bassists, LaFaro and Haden, one playing arco, the other plucking; the 1965 trio with Moffett and Izenson; the late Sixties trio and quartet with Haden and Denardo Coleman - but it was also a band with a specific dynamic of its own. After the bassists Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga, and Coleman's drummer/manager/son Denardo, had filed on stage to warm applause, Coleman appeared. He was carrying his white alto sax, slim, silent and purposeful, and dressed in an aubergine satin suit, white shirt, grey-and-purple tie and black patent leather shoes. To top this off he was wearing a black pork-pie hat: unnervingly, he looked almost like an apparition of Lester Young. This was not the only rather odd thing about the group's deportment on stage: Denardo Coleman's drums were cordoned off from the rest of the group by a series of large glass screens, as if he had to enter some form of quarantine in order to play with the other three men. The audience waited for the music to start in order to have this strange arrangement explained.

Smiling gently, Coleman identified the first tune, "A Call to Beauty". He would not speak again until the concert was completed, the encores had been played and the audience was delivering a standing ovation. With his feet close together and eyes closed, his knees occasionally bending in emphasis, he articulated a brief, cryptically beautiful theme, his tone resonant and singing, his sound gigantic - it seemed impossible that it could be emanating from this small, unassuming man standing centre stage. But Coleman's playing is so strong, so nakedly human that even when it is at its most abstract or frenetic, it penetrates with extraordinary power, to be accepted on its own terms or not at all. That totality of commitment, combined with Coleman's ability to project joy and tenderness through his unique melodic conception, lifted the hearts of everyone present. On the second number, the elegiac "New York", he combined with Falanga to create uncannily beautiful melodic passages of intense melancholic beauty, while Cohen kept a firm grip on the rhythmic thrust. After that, Coleman steered his group through a succession of jaunty, complex, quixotic and downright manic themes, each played with aplomb and shuddering precision: even when the band were playing flat-out they would stop on a pin.

Though most of the evening, Denardo Coleman kept up a barrage on the drums that, muffled by the glass shields, sounded like noises from a nearby war zone being relayed at a truly frantic tempo, his bass drum and hi hat articulating a sort of frenzied two-beat dash like Baby Dodds on amphetamines. Much of the time he was, in fact, playing to a different rhythm from everyone else - not that they seemed to mind. When Coleman broke out his trumpet (and, on one occasion, his violin) the music became positively crazed for a few moments, but at the slightest nod between the musicians they'd all suddenly heave off back to the theme and stop in a trice, as if to say: what do you think of that? Well, what the Cheltenham audience thought was three encores worth, please. As one of these was the hauntingly beautiful "Lonely Woman", played with keening tenderness, it would have been downright churlish not to stand to salute a unique event from a great musician. Modestly, he smiled and said he hoped they'd play better next time. As if...

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?