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Ornette Coleman: “Tomorrow Is the Question”

Artists honor the visionary saxophonist and composer at Lincoln Center Festival events

"Naked Lunch" film screening with live accompaniment: Ravi Coltrane, Henry Threadgill, Charnett Moffett and Denardo Coleman with Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman (photo by Stephanie Berger)
"Naked Lunch" film screening with live accompaniment: Ravi Coltrane, Henry Threadgill, Charnett Moffett and Denardo Coleman with Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman (photo by Stephanie Berger)
from left: saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Henry Threadgill with Ensemble Signal during live orchestral accompaniment of "Naked Lunch" (photo by Stephanie Berger)
from left: saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Henry Threadgill with Ensemble Signal during live orchestral accompaniment of "Naked Lunch" (photo by Stephanie Berger)
"Prime Time: A Reunion" from left: bassist Al MacDowell, saxophonists Kidd Jordan and David Murray, guitarist Vernon Reid (photo by Stephanie Berger)
"Prime Time: A Reunion" from left: bassist Al MacDowell, saxophonists Kidd Jordan and David Murray, guitarist Vernon Reid (photo by Stephanie Berger)
"Prime Time: A Reunion" from left: Al MacDowell, Kidd Jordan, David Murray, Kenny Wessel, Joshua Redman and Vernon Reid (obscured by Redman) (photo by Stephanie Berger)
"Prime Time: A Reunion" from left: Al MacDowell, Kidd Jordan, David Murray, Kenny Wessel, Joshua Redman and Vernon Reid (obscured by Redman) (photo by Stephanie Berger)
Percussionist Badal Roy plays in "Prime Time: A Reunion" (photo by Stephanie Berger)
Percussionist Badal Roy plays in "Prime Time: A Reunion" (photo by Stephanie Berger)

Just over two years since the groundbreaking saxophonist’s passing, Ornette Coleman was the subject of a series of tribute concerts in July as part of the annual Lincoln Center Festival in New York. The four-part event, subtitled “Tomorrow Is the Question,” fell almost exactly 20 years after the career-spanning “? Civilization: A Harmolodic Celebration,” a pace that Denardo Coleman, the late saxophonist’s son and longtime drummer, promised to keep up. “We’ll be back in 2037,” he quipped. “This music isn’t going anywhere.”

This summer’s tribute wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as its predecessor, focusing instead on some of the more arcane or less-celebrated aspects of Coleman’s diverse career. The week included a Sunday matinee performance of the composer’s chamber music by Ensemble Signal, as well as a screening of Shirley Clarke’s documentary Ornette: Made in America. But it was the week’s two stellar evening concerts that were the obvious highlights.

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