Ornette Coleman Harmolodics

Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman created a concept and then forged a movement in music called Harmolodics. It not only became a musical form but was also a philosophy of life. This musical form gave birth to what is today known as Free Jazz and/or Avant Garde Jazz.

Ornette Coleman – Jerry Garcia

Ornette Coleman was born March 9, 1930 and passed away June 11, 2015 he played the alto sax along with stellar musicians such as Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and Cannonball Adderley. In 1960 he recorded what would be a groundbreaking album ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’. Music critic Steve Huey wrote the album “was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven’t come to grips with.” And indeed it was!

Ornette developed as a player in the 1950’s and there are recordings of him playing Charlie Parker lines, note for note, which credits him as being able to pull off what is, for a musician, an extraordinarily difficult music . . . Bebop. This foundation laid the groundwork for his early Harmolodics but in the early 70’s Ornette took a different approach and really opened up the World to Harmolodics.

In 1973 he went to the mystical land that many modern musicians had and would find infinite inspiration, Morocco. There he went to study and work with the Master Musicians of Jajouka far in the djinn inhabited mountain regions. He was to return to America and begin incorporating those sounds with funk and jazz sensibility. He used a double drummer setup, electric funk bass and the new band and era was established which he named, Prime Time. This won the ears of many a critic and the hearts of fans worldwide leading to collaborations as diverse as modern jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and rock icon Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead


Ornette Coleman – Pat Metheny

Harmolodics is about the unique interaction between the players. In this respect it is magical and spiritual. It connects souls together and unifies them into one Sound. The limitations of meter and conventional structure is obliterated and pure Freedom of Spirit is achieved. In a musical sense it is an Improvised composition where the players become deeply in the Flow collectively just as a school of fish or a flock of birds behave. By doing so harmony transforms into melody and that in return becomes harmony. It’s an absolutely astounding sensation for the musician when one is directly in that musical flow. More so, Harmolodics is Freedom and Liberty, to do as what pleases you with sound. It is also Individual in this respect.

Ornette Coleman – Jamaaladeen Tacuma

“Harmony + Motion + Melody + Freedom + Funk = Harmolodics” – Ornette Coleman

Harmolodics is the technique of each musician in a group simultaneously improvising around the melodic and rhythmic patterns in a tune, rather than one musician improvising on its underlying harmonic pattern while the others play an accompaniment. All players are free to play in any tonic, harmonic, rhythm of a given melody. The players freely interpret and reinvent the melodies in conjunction with one another. What keeps this from chaos is the emphasis on collective interplay and recycling of the melody. Harmony is spontaneously created (and destroyed) by the melodic group interplay. The composition unfolds itself. There are no soloists per se, no one acting as the front person. The use of sequence, or motifs, are important as being the glue which holds things together as each musician taps into their individual biological rhythm.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s