The music of Ornette Coleman has always been an inspiration to me. He was an amazing example of individuality and staying true to one’s artistic vision, and he has had a profound influence on both my alto saxophone playing and composing. I wrote “Ornette Haiku,” the second track on Seas & Trees only a few days after his passing in June 2015 during a brief stay in Aptos, California. It’s a 10 measure melody in 4/4 time (with one measure in 3/4) evocative of Ornette’s music with his 1960’s quartet bands, with 4 brief melodic statements. Haiku’s are traditionally three line poems in Japanese, so with this piece I was thinking more the English haiku, which can be characterized as a brief, impressionistic poem, without the phrase structure restriction.
For the recording of this piece on Seas & Trees. John, Dave and I tried out multiple approaches, in terms of improvising and tempo. The take on the CD is medium up, in time, free harmony (with a general tonal center of Bb, the key of the melody), and form. This tune can also be a springboard for total free improvisation or even be played completely straight ahead, with the form and changes. Here’s an example of the former from a performance of “Ornette Haiku” this past May with pianist George Dulin and percussionist Nezih Antakli:
This 2 minute excerpt was taken from the closing section of a 20 minute long performance, so it’s technically the “head out” but it keeps on going in many different directions…you’ll see!