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Zorn’s Prickly Harmony

Ornette Coleman is the subject of debate, through a research paper presented at the conference, as well as praise, with a commission honoring his work.

Double takes might seem in order when the names Ornette Coleman and Walt Disney appear in the same sentence, let alone in close organizational cahoots. But there was Coleman, creating his instantly identifiable modernist magic in the architecturally phantasmagorical new Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. In what was likely the city’s jazz highlight of the year, Coleman made a long-awaited return to the town that spawned his groundbreaking quartet in the late ’50s. His Disney Hall concert kicked off a jazz series in this home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, designed by Frank Gehry, and opened to much international acclaim in October 2003.

The ostensibly odd coupling of Ornette and Disney kept nagging at listeners and observers, just as the blending of the Coleman’s polymorphous “harmolodics” style and the right-angle quashing interior of the house that Gehry built seemed ideally matched. Both names are indisputably important American cultural icons: the great American iconoclast Ornette stands for stretched boundaries and inventive vocabularies, while Disney has been synonymous with culture of moral standing and assuring polish.

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