Shirley Clarke’s Ornette – Redux
Sage counsel from Glenn Kenny for anyone who wants to remember the sadly now-late giant of American music, Ornette Coleman, who died yesterday.
The best starting point might not be on Spotify or on CD but perhaps on DVD: Last year, Milestone Films released a restoration of director Shirley Clarke’s wonderful ’80s documentary Ornette: Made in America, which, among other things, chronicles Coleman’s return to Fort Worth to spearhead the performing-arts center Caravan of Dreams. Clarke shows a young “Ornette” (played by two different actors) wandering around the railroad tracks of Coleman’s old rundown neighborhood, sax in hand. She intercuts scenes of the town’s high-society types attending a performance of “Skies” by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, with Ornette and Prime Time. The music weaves in and out of interviews and vignettes to leave a strong impression not just of Ornette as an American innovator, with all the good and bad fortune that category implies, but a gentle person who also had an extraordinary resilience.