The Old And New Dreams Band: A Lecture-Demonstration

The first Old and New Dreams record on Black Saint has long been one of my Desert Island Discs. The rhythm section of Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell serves up a magnificent polytextural stew in support of the melodic initiatives of Don Cherry and Dewey Redman; everybody plays brilliantly throughout.

In many ways, the work of this band always struck me as a purer presentation of Ornette Coleman’s concepts than many of Ornette’s performances. I mean by this that the shifting tonalities and re-centerings of melodic structure that are at the heart of Coleman’s work are in many ways easier to hear when the composer’s unique alto saxophone sound is not present. Ornette’s sonic presence is undeniable, but when he’s not there it becomes easier to think of the Harmolodic approach as a system that can be used by other musicians. When Ornette’s concept is used (and, as we hear below, explained) by other players, it is easier to separate the things they play from their performance personae. Ornette is such a dramatic and eccentric figure that it is tempting to explain Harmolodics as a species of musical crankery. When Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell interpret his music and influence, the importance and essentiality of Coleman’s Harmolodic Concept is indisputable.

They came to Harvard University in 1980 and played, if memory serves me correctly, at the Loeb Drama Center — an unusual venue. Hearing the band perform live in Cambridge was a truly wonderful experience; some memories from that gig still stand out (like watching Ed Blackwell create a huge blanket of rhythms without, apparently, moving his hands at all). I heard them again at a Cambridge jazz club (Jonathan Swift’s? I forget) a few years later, and they were brilliant then, too. But I digress.

One of the most memorable features of their time under Harvard’s auspices was the lecture-demonstration that Cherry, Redman and Haden gave at Adams House on February 29 (Blackwell was unavailable due to medical issues; IIRC he was doing daily dialysis). I recently digitized the recording of that lec-dem (made on a lo-fi boombox belonging to the drummer and drum-maker Betsy McGurk, who can be heard asking a few questions in the Q&A portion of the presentation) and I’m happy to present it here, along with a transcription (the result of many enjoyable late-night hours).

I have my own thoughts on what Ornette’s “Harmolodics” is all about (the fact that Ornette uses the word “love” a lot when he talks about his music theory is an interesting clue) and someday I’ll write them down and put them out here…but for now, here are Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden, talking and playing about their music and their mentor, Ornette Coleman. Enjoy.

Don Cherry: Charlie! What is the Harmolodic Concept?

Charlie Haden: (waits for audience laughter to die down)…Ornette asked me, when we were rehearsing…we would stop in the middle of a piece and he would say “What were you doing right there?” and I would say, “I was just listening to you and playing.”  He’d say, “No, but you have to really know what you’re doing.  You have to think about what you’re doing, and know about how it works, what makes it work.”

So I thought about that afterwards.  He was really right, because improvisation is very complex, it’s very difficult and emotionally draining.  And the emotionally draining part of it takes you away from thinking about what it is that you’re doing technically.  So from that point on I started really thinking about what it was that we were doing together.  I know before I had met Ornette, this was, like, in 1956 in Los Angeles….I was playing with different jazz groups in Los Angeles, playing at jam sessions and jazz clubs….mostly bebop, and when it came time for the bass to solo, sometimes I felt that I didn’t want to play on the regular chord structure or the chord changes of the particular piece that we were playing.  We might have been playing a standard tune or a blues or whatever.  And sometimes I wanted to play on the feeling, or or the inspiration of the piece rather than the chord structure, um, and I was really not free to do that, because… when I tried to do that… the people that I was usually playing with were used to solos being played on the chord changes and they were used to knowing where the soloist was in the composition, and they wouldn’t know where I was if I would play on the way I felt about the piece, and when I did try, that was usually what would happen, a negative thing that would happen.  The musicians would be…they wouldn’t know where I was in the piece, they would say “Hey, what are you doing?”

So I always held back from doing that until I met Ornette.  And he was doing that.  It was a way of life with him.  That’s the way he improvised…was from the feeling of the piece, and creating his own chord structure spontaneously, anew, each time he played a composition, he would take his inspiration from that piece, or the feeling that he had for that piece…and he would create a new chord structure by a process of modulation, and intervals, phrasing, pitch and tonality.

I learned more about listening playing with Ornette than any other person, because…to play music with him you have to listen to every note he plays, and that’s…we were all raised in that language, Don and Dewey and I and Edward Blackwell and Billy Higgins.  We played together for many years with Ornette, and we’re very close to that way of playing.  It’s very important for us to be able to be free in our way of improvising.  The other part of the concept is the human part of it, which is very close to the sound of the earth or the sound of the human voice, or the sound of whatever it is that music is…whatever it is that life is.

It’s an acoustic sound.  On my particular instrument, I play on gut strings, because the gut strings enable the instrument to sound the way the maker of the instrument meant for it to sound.  It’s a wood sound, and…the gut strings, as opposed to…a lot of bassists play metal strings, and that’s more a metallic sound.  Part of the sound of each instrument in this music is that a musician…and it’s really phenomenal when you think about it; a musician hears music a certain way, when he’s creating, or she’s creating, and to be able to play your instrument the way your ears are hearing the sound is very important thing.

For  instance, what I’m trying to say is that Charlie Parker could play anyone else’s alto saxophone, and that alto saxophone would sound the way that his ears were hearing the music.   And the same with other instruments.  Whenever you hear Bud Powell touch the piano keys, you know right away that it’s Bud Powell, because he is able to make the instrument sound the way his ears hear music, which is really a great gift, and very important to the music.

A lot of people… have different concepts about the Harmolodic Concept, which is what Ornette calls the way he plays, and he has, or I have, music that he’s written, or exercises, that show, that illustrate what the concept is.  He’s always after me to write a book about the way that the bass is…functions in the music…maybe before I do that, I want to really learn more and more, and grow more and more in the music, and experience it more.  But Don is right: I think all of us probably see everything about the concept of improvisation very close to each other and yet when we explain it in words you might be hearing different things.

Q: What does the Harmolodic Concept mean to you?

Dewey Redman: Ummm…I don’t know how to say this….to me, it’s a very personal concept that was originated by Ornette Coleman, and probably only he would be able to give you a technical explanation of exactly what it is.  But it’s obvious from the beginning that it’s a combination of harmony and melody, where the harmony can be the melody or vice versa.  It’s very difficult to describe the music in words….for me it is…for example, you know, when you look in the dictionary for the definition of music, you know they give you a lot of words, but it doesn’t really explain what music is.  Music is so mysterious.  Something that you can’t see, and you can’t touch it, but you can feel it, and…so it goes into the mystique of what music really is.  I don’t really know how to describe music.  Um…I guess it’s easier to say what it does than what it is.  But to me…. the only thing that I can think about when it comes to music is that music is sound….other than that, I mean, you attempt to describe it, you know, you get into all kinds of semantics, and this and that, and it really doesn’t tell you exactly what it is.  Most times it tells you what it does, or the effects of it.


Don Cherry: Yeah, that’s why it’s good to try and relate some sound descriptions, some examples of some of the melodies…that are Harmolodic Melodies. For instance in the early fifties when we first started with Ornette, we all had come out of the period of learning bebop songs, different phrases and chords with the songs…and those different chord progressions were very important for you to learn when you first started out in the music. And the first was the twelve-bar blues, which was the (inaudible) for you to actually learn. Then, going into the bebop period there was different variations of the twelve-bar blues that we were playing….Charlie Parker was one of the composers that was writing tunes from the blues that were different. The first song that I learned was a song called “Perhaps,” it’s in C and it’s a twelve-bar blues…


Now dig, that’s the chord that you sing…


the seventh


that’s the turnback…


Now dig okay then he wrote another blues where he would have the fifth moving to the sixth…


The same twelve-bar blues with a variation on…by the fifth moving up. And there’s many songs, you can go on and on, there’s many different composers of that period in the fifties and sixties where there was different variations of the blues, but with the same twelve-bar root concept.

But even farther before that for me was like, you would learn the shuffle…the Texas shuffle, they called it…(inaudible)

and then you play it, you say:


I’m gonna do the whole twelve bars (laughter), the turnback…


Now dig, I’m starting back…I stopped – on the beginning. Now that’s very important, and we’ll find that out…in relation to, ah…when I started learning Indian music is that you never finish on the twelfth bar, you always finish on the beginning again. So that means that there aren’t really endings; there’s just beginnings.

Now, coming into the Harmolodic Concept…for instance, a tune called, ahh, (inaudible)…


and then Ornette had written a song on that called “Jayne,” which is like:



Now for instance as he does that turnback (sings) that “weee” is a flatted nine, and that’s like a…period where they started using other inversions to end the chords, they used like flatted nine, flatted fifth, augmented elevenths, to make a certain brilliance to the voicings, and that’s an example of how you take a chord from a song, to write a song against the chord pattern that has already been established for another melody that has been written. That’s an example, if you have a harmony, and they have a melody, and they ask everyone to write harmony to that melody…and we all could come up with different harmonies to that same melody…it depends on how personal our actual ear…ears and our own personal feelings, how we conceive that melody…

…and then again, he would…started writing songs with form, new forms. That particular structure was one structure, but then to write where there’s new forms and other structures…I’m trying to think of a good example. Like there’s a song that we used to do called “Invisible.” But no! Wait! Now dig. Now here is a melody that goes like this, see…

(plays melodica)

Now that, if you were thinking of that as a bass line, it would be like… you’d say:

(plays melodica)

Now that’s where you played each phrase as walking for a bass line, where the bass is walking, now if you was thinking of bringing that phrase together and making it as a melody, then you say:


That’s one phrase (sings). So, that what I’m sayin’ is that you have a phrase that is made up as a line, a bass line which would be accompanying another melody on top, which you would also use as harmony. And when you’re making bass line, you’re making harmonies too, also. So…but you take that particular, which are fourths… movement; fourth movement or seventh movement and make a phrase out of it and then it becomes one particular phrase. Now that could be like one particular Harmolodic phrase, I’m saying like if I was playin’…the rhythm section was (snaps fingers and sings).

…is the whole phrase, and I could keep phrasing it each time it would be different; I could play short notes or long notes…and what I’m sayin’ is that within the Harmolodic system you could play phrases like that…and Ornette is…he has the knack and the art of playing a concept where he can play phrases after phrases, swinging, and all the phrases will have that purity in intervals which makes the swing. And that is what makes up the Harmolodic concept, that’s what you’re reaching for, to be able to know an interval, and the sound of an interval, for them to swing in a way that you can connect them in one phrase, one phrase, because that was one of the main things in bebop music, is that you had these phrases…and these phrases were very strong within itself, and how to connect those…it was like the thing of really making them swing is how you could connect all these phrases and change up in the phrases…not just keeping one steady eighth-note line going, but changing up and making phrases within the line, to make it swing and make it still be connected.

Don Cherry: One of the things, like when Dewey was saying, that when you have a melody and a harmony, and you’re speaking of the Harmolodic Concept…well then you have…that’s why it’s possible, like, if Ornette writes a song, a melody, and I learn the melody on the trumpet, well then he would write a harmony part to the melody, and his harmony part would make my melody sound harmony…and his melody…I mean, his harmony, become melody, which I think is very profound in Western music.

I’ll explain that again. If he writes a melody that I would play, I mean that we would play in unison, and then he wanted to write a harmony line to the melody – his harmony would become the melody, and the melody I’m playing would become harmony. And that’s another point of it…and that means that each phrase itself can have its own tonic, and that’s another…it’s incredible…the art of modulation can be done in a way that you’re not modulating, because each note is getting a certain tonic sound within itself.

For instance, when Ornette writes a clef, he writes the treble clef, and then he writes the Harmolodic Clef, which is a figure 8, and then you have the bass clef. So that means that you could play…look at the lines and spaces of the music and no matter what transposed instrument you play you can play the melody and it still will come out the melody and it will be in harmony with the instrument you’re transposing from. I mean, that’s important because you’re playing a instrument that… a B-flat instrument, an E-flat instrument, to be able to get other clef sounds out of that instrument, I mean for you to be able to play, for instance, like our getting like, a soprano sound…treble or bass, or coming from the pitch of those instruments, phrases giving that sound of the transposed instrument. Because transposing is a very important part in the Harmolodic system. Because through transposing when you see a note, you see the note and hear the note, that’s what it is, and the degree of the scale, of the key that you’re playin’ in. Because, see, for instance if you have a C, and we think of that C as a tonic, just a One, and we sing that C as a tonic, we’ll sing it in a certain way. But if we take that same C and we have it in our mind that that C is a minor third, and we hit that C and it would get a different flavor, a different sound, a different tactic, because we have in our mind; we know intervals enough to know that that minor third is going to get a certain feeling. We take that same C and hit that C as a Major Seventh. The major seventh is the one (sings) sa re ga ma pa dha ni..., that’s the one that wants to resolve, and if we hit that same C as if it was a major seventh, then it would take up on a different point, the same note, but it’s taking up a different texture of a different flavor of the sound of the note, the quality…so that means that every twelve notes…I mean every one note has twelve sounds within them…there’s no end….(inaudible).

Charlie Haden:…we were rehearsing at the Hillcrest Club…this was like, a long time ago. It was during the afternoon and no one was in the club, we were there by ourselves, but Dexter Gordon was there listening to us. And he asked Ornette after we finished rehearsing a couple of tunes, he said, “Do you ever play any standard tunes?” and Ornette said “yeah.” He said… something like, “I do, but I’ve already played them, so I don’t have to play them anymore.” He said, “here, I’ll show you what I mean. I’ll play Body and Soul for you.” And he played Body and Soul, only he just played one phrase, not Body and Soul, but the way he felt Body and Soul was, in one phrase, and it sounded like the whole song being played. And then he did it again differently! He says, “Now I’m going to play it for you again!” He played it again, and it sounded like Body and Soul. (inaudible)

Don Cherry: …’cause that’s like the essence of knowing the mood and feeling of the song, you know it so well that you can make that feeling of that song…really knowing that piece.

See, that’s one of the things that we…everyone felt when we first came on the scene that we didn’t know our instruments; we didn’t even know how to blow our nose (laughter)…and actually, studying and playing with Ornette, and before we came to New York we all went away and practiced together and had a really disciplined schedule, how we would practice together.

And Ornette always would be writing songs, and we would learn the songs, we would learn the songs this way, I mean we would be learning this way…and that way…you got to be very interested in how…what the intervals were actually doing (inaudible)….the purity of intervals. And I can see now in some of the phrases that he’s writing, he’ll write a phrase where he’ll start on one note and the whole phrase itself maybe will go through all twelve notes and come back to the note that it started on, that he can be able to have…to know what to do, how these notes work through all twelve notes to make the tonic still ring…

….yeah, and maybe we should play a melody (inaudible)…

Dewey Redman: Maybe somebody has a question?

Don Cherry: It’s better that we play some and then you’ll have something to ask about.

“Open or Close” by Ornette Coleman

Don Cherry: Maybe it’s better now you want to ask us some questions pertaining to that because then I’d like to show you this instrument, and, uh…we won’t take a break, we’ll just go straight through because we have to go to the sound check afterwards, but now we’d like to ask…you can begin asking questions…

Audience member: The actual melody at the beginning, was that notated with rests also, or is it just…are there actual spaces in the beginning, like pauses in the melody?

Don Cherry: Yeah, the melody is actually notated, but the way that we…phrasing the melody, we phrase it differently each time, and that’s something that we have to feel within each other, see that’s why we don’t ever, we never cut the…we never say “1, 2, 3, 4, go!”cause when we start, from the time we start, when we hear the sound, we can hear the tempo, and the tempo (inaudible)…

Dewey Redman: Yeah, and you have to remember that we don’t have a drummer (laughter)! ’cause the drummer, if the drummer, who is the lifeblood of the group, is not here…it would give it a different inflection with the drummer, because he is the lifeblood, sets up the rhythm, counter-rhythm, etcetera. Yes.

Betsy McGurk: It’s a question for everyone, though I noticed Charlie Haden was doing it more. When you play notes or phrases, do you feel the notes or the songs moving through your body in certain places, or coming from different parts of your body. I mean for instance when you were playing lines on the bass that went up and down, you went…you got a lot taller, and then went back down…

Charlie Haden: That’s nice! (laughter). I’ve gotta do that more often! (laughter). You know one thing about physical involvement in music, it’s very difficult…because, I’m speaking for myself now, when I’m not playing, I’m very awkward, physically. I don’t move gracefully. I can’t dance. I don’t feel…I see gymnasts and I see dancers and I envy them, because it’s so beautiful to be able to be free and move like that…and then when I’m playing music, I don’t think about movement when I’m playing, and the physical movement that happens as a side-effect of what’s happening, happens, and people tell me that, “Wow, you really move great when you play!”but I don’t think about that, you know. The only time that I think about it is when somebody calls it to my attention and says something like what you just did…

Betsy McGurk: So you don’t think of the origin…?

Charlie Haden: I think that it plays much more of a role than I know about, you know…I have never really gone into that study as far as the physical involvement in creating music is concerned, feeling the music physically, because I’m so involved in it emotionally, and it’s very difficult for me to…

Audience Member: Question for Charlie: Eddie Blackwell is not here, and you are the rhythm section for the time being. What’s that like?

Charlie Haden: Hard!

Audience Member: Do you get to do that often? Especially performing or anything, and what are the different problems it presents; what do you have to do differently?

Charlie Haden: Well, I play sometimes without drums, in different situations. It’s the same, um, as when you’re playing…we never play with a chordal instrument playing with us, sometimes Don plays piano, but usually when we all play together we’re playing without a piano. And we all make the chords happen when we play. And when you’re playing without a drummer, if you’re intentionally playing without a drummer, then that’s the way it is, but if…part of it is missing, that makes it…’cause Blackwell is really a very special person, plays drums, he plays drums the way no other drummer plays. As a matter of fact I was just saying yesterday, we did an interview and Don and I were talking about him and how great he is, and I was expressing my feeling in the way that sometimes I feel like he’s playing for me; he’s so powerful and uplifting….and his sensitivity, the way he hears and feels. He’s very sensitive to each instrument and the range and timbre and sound of each instrument…he can play something on a cymbal or something on one of the drums that brings out a certain range of an instrument that’s just phenomenal, and that’s (inaudible), so I missed him.

Don Cherry: But he can do that because he’s played (inaudible) the drummer. Otherwise he wouldn’t be (laughter). You can do that because you’ve played with…

Audience Member: Can you speak about your concepts of rhythm inside and outside and how you can uh, I’d just like you to explain (inaudible) your rhythm concepts and how they developed…

Don Cherry: Well, one important thing is, for instance, when we speak about our drummer, his concept and playing with him, which plays a major part in the music, in the phrases and music…he has a special thing, Blackwell has, uh, independence. He can play with his left foot, on the sock cymbal, he can play, say, ‘1, 2, 3…, 1, 2, 3…, 1, 2, 3…, 1, 2, 3…, chick, chick, chick…,’ and with his bass drum at the same time, he’ll say (speaks drum syllables). And then with his hand he’s playing a whole different rhythm, all different, and the importance of that is the One, and he can do that because of him realizing what that, what that One is. And in rhythm it’s so important…really knowing what the One is, because once you really feel where the One is, then you can stretch it out to different…you can change it in different cycles, or you can go all around and come back, long as you know where that One is. And you have to have a good concept of where that One is, and that’s how you can always be able to come back and you always know where you are, because you know where the One is.

Audience Member: Is there always a One?

Don Cherry: Yeah. I mean, that goes back to a whole mess…a lot of things, there’s always a One.

Audience Member: I have a guestion I’d like to ask the three of you. It has to do with (inaudible) in soloing concept. I’d like to know, when you’re soloing, if your concept relies on structure and chord changes, you know, in the tune, or if you use a lot of outside things to influence what you’re playing, or maybe it’s a combination of both, or other things…

Dewey Redman: Well I think the improvisation, which is like, ninety-five percent of the tune, relates to the melody, whatever the melody is stated at the beginning, and you, when you improvise around that, you know, you’re relating to that structure. However, that can be very complex, because, you know, like you might be thinking of the melody, but you might also be thinking of, uh, different phrases that go with the melody or maybe go against the melody.

I’d like to say this; nobody asked me but I’m going to say it anyway (laughter): Ahhh, trying to figure out music is difficult, as I said before. It’s very difficult to describe things in words, but one thing that occurred to me after years of trying to figure out exactly what this stuff is, you know, one day it came to me that of all the people — I’m choosy about this, too — all the people I like, you know, whether they’re classical or Indian music, opera, jazz, singers, saxophone players…they all didn’t look alike and they all weren’t born under the same sign or whatever, and you know they weren’t the same color or the same sex…everybody I liked…

…that is, a good sound. Sound. So to me, sound is important, you know, whether I’m listening to Luciano Pavarotti or Sarah Vaughan, they both have a good sound, you know what I’m talking about? So, you know, I think that if more young musicians would put more time onto developing a good sound, I mean, you can have technique up the…you know (laughter), you know you could have enough technique to give away to the Russians, maybe, but what I’m saying, technique to me is not that important, the most important thing to me is sound. No matter who I’m listening to, if they have a good sound…and you know if you think about it, everybody doesn’t sound alike, you know, and that’s great, and that means you can develop your own sound, you know. As long as you can project, that’s what I’m sayin’. You know, as long as somethin’ is happening…you can have lots of technique, but if you can’t project it, ain’t nothin’ happening, Jack!

Audience Member: (inaudible question).

Dewey Redman: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.

Audience Member: (the question is still inaudible, but the words “Stravinsky,” “Berg,” and “Charles Ives” can be heard faintly)

Dewey Redman: Personally, have I tried to play that?

Audience Member: Yes.

Dewey Redman: No.

Charlie Haden: Improvising or interpreting?

Dewey Redman: Listening to it?

Audience Member: (inaudible)

Dewey Redman: Yeah, you know, in other words, playing along with the record sort of thing? Is that what you mean? (laughter)

Audience Member: (inaudible; it seems to concern concepts used in Western classical music and their application to the music of Old & New Dreams).

Dewey Redman: I’m aware of the concepts, and other musics, but, ahhh, it’s impossible to play everything, you know, so what you have to do is commit yourself to make a personal development of your style and the way you would like to improvise. ‘Cause improvising, you know, we could talk for three weeks about this, about improvising. Because, actually, you know, it’s more difficult for me to play, just to make up something, than it is to play on, say, a chord structure. When you have a chord structure and you know what the chord is, you play around the chord structure, but you know, like we play…I mean, every time we get up to play, you know, we just, it’s just like making up stuff, you know, we just make something up and play it, right there on the spot, and that’s very difficult, especially if you want to be strong and vibrant and creative and all that stuff, you know, it’s very difficult to do that, to be extemporaneous like that, you know.

Charlie Haden: Also…the composers that you mention (inaudible); their compositions are created the way a musician’s improvisation is created. When they composed those pieces they were creating, and when those pieces are performed they are performed by musicians who are interpreting those creations. And it’s very difficult to think of those compositions and those composers in relation to improvising musicians because they didn’t write them to be improvised on, they composed them so you can play them, or interpret them. You understand what I’m saying? Most of the music that we play has been written for improvisation, and inspired, compositionally, for people who improvise. When I write, when I compose, I specifically have either certain people in mind who I’m writing for, ’cause I know how they sound, I know they (inaudible) important sound. Each individual musician that I’ve met through my lifetime mostly had individual sounds and personality as a musician, so when I compose something for a particular person, or have a particular person in mind to play it, it’s specifically (inaudible). I understand what you’re saying; like, I can be inspired by listening to Bach, and I would love to play on that, but he played that.

Audience Member: (inaudible)

Don Cherry: Well, actually what you are saying it’s like…we have been in different situations; some of the contemporary composers (inaudible), Penderecki, Terry Riley, Cage, and us as improvisers improvising in the context of classical musicians, with classical instruments, that’s what you’re speaking of, and we have thought of being in that environment of contemporary music with classical musicians improvising. Which I did, which is happening, especially in Europe, and that particular, like, intellectual type approach to music to me is very much in Japan, it’s incredible what’s happening for the intellectual music, on that level, with not only just classical instruments, but those who (inaudible) intellectual mode, something that, uh…, to me it’s very simple to set up an intellectual mold where we improvise together, and it’s:



You know what I mean, that’s like, that’s the intellectual mode!


While we have the time, I’d like to just try share something with you…

Dewey Redman: Okay, before you start…

Dewey Redman: …The gentleman once more, to compliment you, on what you’re talking about improvising, can best be demonstrated, I think, by listening to one of the greats of all time, Mr. Duke Ellington. Duke Ellington wrote for the people in his orchestra. He composed the music with certain individuals in mind, and also with the whole group in mind. So…some of it doesn’t sound very avant-garde, but it does…if you listen to it very closely, you know, I think that’s probably the best example of somebody who sort of touched all bases, you know, including (inaudible).

Audience Member: Don, all your life, all your musical life, to me it seems like you’ve been involved in the great…golden area where different musics sort of touch, and the basic similarities between them…and once I saw you in New York with a bass player and drummer who used to play with Lou Reed, and I know a lot of the new wave musicians in New York idolize James Blood Ulmer and so forth. What are your thoughts on those areas where music…especially that concert that I saw?

Don Cherry: Well it’s incredible that new wave, punk, all those musicians are aware of what’s happening in music, also…maybe you wouldn’t think it (laughter). Everyone is listening to everybody; everyone knows what everyone else is doing. I recently had an experience with touring England and the continent with this group of musicians from the Lou Reed group, and a reggae group, (inaudible), plus an all-girls new wave group called The Slits (laughter), and we traveled all over…now this is like playing for audiences wearing leather jackets and swastikas and sig heils, and if they really dig you they gob you, you know, they spit on you, you know. (laughter) And then I got a chance to meet a lot of the cats in steel clothes and different cats in reggae, which I like a lot, because reggae music is really tender (inaudible)…but we did this tour, and it was all these different audiences, and it was important, like, for us to do that, for them to…for us to…people that had never heard them to experience what they were doing, and for people that had never heard…for different audiences to have an experience of different types of music. And that is one reason in Europe why there is a bigger audience for music. Everyone in Europe feels that we call avant-garde jazz music is American culture. And it’s presented that way, as from America. And America is not recognized that way here; in Europe it’s recognized that way, and they have a big audience because they have programs where they’ll have a punk rock group, an ethnic group, a contemporary classical and jazz group all on the same program. So you have all these different audiences all experiencing different music, so that’s why it’s a bigger audience, and it’s been more representative of the people (inaudible)…have an opportunity to hear a lot of great musicians (inaudible).

Audience Member: (almost entirely inaudible question…damned if I can make any sense of it. It seems to be about emotional involvement in music).


Audience Member: I’m sure we all know that fable of the king’s new clothes. And it seems people are talking about new wave, new music, the new thing, that many people are much too willing to be taken in, because it says “new.” An interesting thing…you started out establishing the fact that you had grown out of bebop, you planted down your roots, and more…you haven’t really said anything in a sense about “new, new, new…” but the harmolodic concept is not in a sense new, but it’s a grounding of the way that you approach the body of the music that you play…under the label jazz or improvisational music or the people’s music or whatever. Actually I’d just like to thank you for the fact that you didn’t use the buzzword “new” at any time, the fact that in that sense what you represent is a true evolution of the music, and of course that is new.

Charlie Haden:
We were just playing in Italy, (inaudible), we were playing in Turino…this distinguished-looking Italian gentleman came backstage during intermission, and he says, “You sound so beautiful, you guys are beautiful…but you’re playing all new dreams; I want to hear some old dreams!” (inaudible).

Audience Member: In relation to the bass, how important do you feel it is to have a classical background on the instrument, like what kind of bearing do you think the original techniques of a classical musician would have…what kind of bearing on the improvising?

Charlie Haden:
Well, I feel that it’s very important to know your instrument, because it’s a never-ending learning process. As far as a classical technique or training, I really didn’t ever study. I studied a few lessons with a man named Herman Reinshagen, who was the principal bassist under Toscannini. He’s dead now, but he was teaching in LA in the fifties, and sometimes I wish that I had kept studying, because there’s really an art to teaching, and people can dedicate their lives to that too.

But I learned more by playing the music that I love…by playing, with musicians who also love and have the same dedication to it that I have, I feel that, that’s not (inaudible). I feel that it’s also important to learn as much about the technical aspect of the music and the different traditions as you can; it will take more than many lifetimes to learn everything, and to study it. I know that… I was reading about Dragonetti, the great classical bass player, and Bottesini…I would love to read more about them and their lives and their studies…there wasn’t that much music written for the bass violin…of course, I think it’s the most beautiful instrument in the world…(laughter).

Audience Member: When you’re just improvising, maybe, with two or three people, are you thinking more roots, or are you thinking bass melodies, or are you…’cause I noticed you use a lot of octave things, y’know, and I was wondering whether maybe, y’know, you might…are you thinking more in terms of setting down roots for other people to play off of, are you thinking more in terms of creating your own melody…y’know, this Harmolodic scene, which, y’know, is something that’s very nebulous…concept, but I’m just trying to…get behind what you’re thinking about…what parameters you’re setting up in the group in this (inaudible) improvisation.

Charlie Haden: Well, when you’re playing…it’s on another level of thinking, it’s sensing, and feeling and perceiving…being open.

Audience Member: So…but, basically it’s an ear thing, right?

Charlie Haden: That’s (inaudible). (laughter)

Audience Member: No, I’m talking about the specific…I’m not talking about playing a head or learning something, I’m talking about improvising with other people.

Charlie Haden: Right.

Audience Member: And I’m wondering if it’s possible for you to explain your concept of that, in terms of your particular instrument.

Charlie Haden: You might be right. (laughter).

Betsy McGurk: I’d really like to hear that instrument.

Don Cherry: Yeah. This is a guitar from Mali, in Africa, and it’s a hunter’s guitar. The people are called Bambal, and in their language “hunter” is dousson, and “guitar” is gouni, so it’s…the instrument is actually called a dousso’n’gouni. It’s usually tuned with…five or six note instrument, usually tuned to five notes.


The first rhythm you learn on the dousso’n’gouni goes like this:


It’s that…you notice I’m playing with my thumb on the right side, all with thumbs, on the left side I play with my thumb on the two bottom strings, and on the top string, which is the octave, I’m playing with my little finger. And here I’m playing the first from the bottom string and the top string. (inaudible) And then I add in one thumb from the left side, like so:


Now when I add two strings on the left side:


Now I’m going to play all the strings on both sides:


(plays and sings)

(tape ends).

Thank you so much, Warren, for the transcription! So much to learn from these guys… Cheers from Berlin, Germany

Hi Warren, just googled old and new dreams and jonathan swifts and came up with your site. I was the soundman for that show at swifts on June 8, 1982.
Here is a link to that show on my website.

Thank you for those words, Allan. Let’s talk about harmolodics sometime. Where are you based?

This is so lovely! Thank you for transcribing this and posting it. I am a poet, composer, and musician myself, and a big part of my life is devoted to studying Harmolodics. I believe it applies to every art. Ornette is so often the only one who speaks much about it, so it’s wonderful to hear the voices of the band!

I greatly enjoyed doing it. It was lovely to listen to Don’s discussion of Ornette with all the demonstrations. And the trio performance is a joy, isn’t it?

Thanks for this transcription.

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