Performing Arts: Music
July 12, 2017
The enigmatic jazz musician, composer and philosopher, Ornette Coleman died in 2015, and since then, the tributes keep coming. A wiry man with a soft-spoken voice, he influenced generations of musicians and explored musical sounds much the same way as postmodern composer John Cage. Only Coleman swept the global sounds through a wide-open jazz prism.

At Alice Tully Hall, Coleman was once again remembered during a screening of David Cronenberg’s 1991 hallucinogenic film, “Naked Lunch” set to a score by Howard Shore and Ornette Colemen.

The score by Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman was played live by the on-stage saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (yes, son of John Coltrane) and Henry Threadgill along with Ensemble Signal. Riffing through the mind-expanding film, there was no question but for today’s 21st century audience, the experiment took hold.

Shot much like film verite, a writer gets entangled in the recesses of his fecund mind while negotiating flamboyant characters in the dense backstreets and markets of Medina, Turkey.

To describe the film is to take a stab at making sense of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” – the story where a man becomes a cockroach. Only in Naked Lunch, Bill—Peter Weller, is a cockroach exterminator who later becomes possessed by cockroach thugs, doctors, and typewriters. Wryly fanciful, it requires a suspension of disbelief—not so difficult this day and age—and a deep plunge into the dark, insecure psyches of artists.

Reportedly based on a number of beat characters surrounding Burroughs life Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as well as Paul and Jane Bowles. The cast is universally weird and wonderful. Throughout the screening, edgy jazz music accompanied the jagged images stretched beyond reality.

But the most wonderful part of the evening came at the end, when the jazz combo—the bonified jazz icon, Henry Threadgill who pushed through long, elegant saxophone riffs built on by a muscular saxophonist Ravi Coltrane then stretched through Charnett Moffett’s classically jazz bass and drilled forward by Charnett Moffett’s drums. The audience went wild, brought the musicians back for an encore—only wish the encore had gone on for another hour.

Kudos as well the Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman in this Lincoln Center Festival, 2017 program.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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