It wouldn't be an Ornette Coleman concert if it wasn't intensely challenging. After being presented the Miles Davis award, Coleman went on one of his trademark tangential speeches about love and life. He gave a similar sermon in a press conference earlier in the day, bewildering many journalists unfamiliar with his style.
Bassists Tony Falanga (on contrabass) and Al Macdowell (on electric piccolo bass) did most of the heavy lifting, playing the heads of "Blues Connotation" and "Peace" in unison, with Ornette only coming in afterwards to blow. Ornette sat centre stage, spending most of his time on alto, only picking up the trumpet and violin for a phrase or two, for a burst of different colour, and possibly to cue changes. His sound is still full in its idiosyncratic way, showing no real signs of his physical frailty.
Denardo Coleman had two modes on drums: frenetic swing interspersed with fills (which lended itself to the edge-of-your-seat momentum of the group), or a sloppy, non sequitur backbeat. The effectiveness of Denardo's complete lack of hookup with the rest of the band is debatable - my friend Adam Kinner at the Gazette really liked that element, but I prefer my Ornette with a more musically sensitive drummer (Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell, Jack DeJohnette). The superimposition of the backbeat on a truly gorgeous ballad early in the set really annoyed me. When it recurred throughout the set, I wasn't sure if it was some sort of inside joke.
A singer came out towards the end of the set, singing and reciting poetry half in English, half in Japanese. In true Ornette fashion, she was not acknowledged, her presence as ephemeral as the music. I left shortly after, to catch Curumin outside on the groove stage, missing what was by all accounts a tremendous reading of "Lonely Woman."