For nine days in June, free jazz legend and icon of the avant-garde Ornette Coleman will take over Southbank Centre’s riverside venues and spaces as the 16th director of Meltdown. Reflecting the restless, unfettered spirit of this year’s director, Meltdown in 2009 will provide a platform for avant-rockers, jazz and world music artists alike - giving free reign to reinvention, improvisation and the collaborative concerts Meltdown is renowned for.
Artists confirmed so far to appear in Ornette Coleman’s free-spirited Meltdown are: Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, Sean Lennon, Cornelius, The Master Musicians of Joujouka and Bachir Attar, Patti Smith, The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra, David Murray, Gwo-Ka Masters, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Baaba Maal, Yo La Tengo, Moby, Bobby McFerrin, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Carla Bley, Robert Wyatt and The Bad Plus.
As well as having the chance to experience a wide spectrum of artists influenced by Coleman, audiences will get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness Ornette Coleman himself performing some of the music that set the world alight in the late 1950s, on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 19 and Sunday 21 June.
"People may be surprised to see what's in this box of musical delights that is Ornette Coleman's Meltdown, but that is only to be expected from an artist who has surprised, shocked and confounded throughout his long career. While some may want to claim him as a jazz artist, Ornette has spent his life trying to break down such rigid definitions and, 50 years on, we have at least two generations of musicians deeply inspired by him. It is Ornette's persistence of vision, and his dogged ability to thrive creatively while faced with incomprehension that has made him a legend in the minds of the originators lined up to play this festival, one of the boldest Meltdown line-ups we've ever assembled."
Glenn Max, Producer of Contemporary Culture at Southbank Centre
On Saturday 13 June, beloved Philadelphia hip hop outfit The Roots, perform in the Royal Festival Hall. The Roots’ jazz-infused, eclectic approach to hip hop and their experimental spirit make them perfect candidates to open Ornette Coleman’s Meltdown. On the same day, saxophonist and clarinet virtuoso David Murray performs in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with Guadeloupian percussionists Gwo Kan Masters and free jazz bassist and Coleman collaborator Jamaaladeen Tacuma. One of the most innovative and inventive musicians in jazz, Murray is heavily influenced by free jazz pioneers of the late 1950s and famed for his use of circular breathing, which allows him to play spectacularly long phrases.
Sunday 14 June sees the first ever UK performance by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, with guest artists including Sean Lennon and Cornelius. It is also hoped that Ornette Coleman will join Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band onstage. Coleman and Yoko last appeared together at London’s Albert Hall in 1968 performing the song ‘AOS’, the recording of which would appear on record in 1970 on Ono’s debut album Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. In what will be a night of many surprises, it is possible that this incarnation of Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band will include appearances from other guest musicians. Yoko Ono has just finished recording her brand new studio album, which she also co-produced with her son Sean Lennon. The album will be released later this year but it is expected that Ono will preview some of the new material during her Meltdown show.
“I am thrilled to be asked to perform at Meltdown and especially excited to play the first ever UK show as Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band. It will also be fantastic to work with Ornette again.”
The inclusion of Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal, who plays the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 15 June, references Coleman’s lifelong interest in the music of Africa, forged in the 1970s through his travels there. Baaba Maal’s 1998 concert in the Royal Festival Hall is often cited as one of the best world music gigs ever. Also invited to perform at the festival are the Master Musicians of Joujouka and Bachir Attar, with whom Ornette famously recorded in 1973. He said of the music of the Gnawan brotherhood from the Morrocan Riff Mountains, that their sufi trance music had "the ability to preserve life".
On Monday 15 June, experimental alt.rockers Yo La Tengo (whose reverence for Ornette led the New Jersey band to copy the iconic design of his 1958 release Something Else! for their 2003 EP Today is the Day) perform in the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of their intimate and interactive Freewheeling Tour.
“As with so many of my favourite artists, my first impression of hearing Ornette Coleman (as opposed to hearing about him) was negative. I can vividly recall getting a copy of Art of the Improvisers and not being able to make head or tail of it. (I felt the same way about Pet Sounds). Years later bought a copy of either This Is Our Music or The Shape of Jazz to Come and was devastated (can't remember which one it was, because I bought the other one almost instantly). I've never stopped being inspired by Ornette Coleman, even (make that especially) when he's at his most confounding.”
Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo
On Tuesday 16 June, Ornette’s New York neighbour and fellow Tibethouse performer and campaigner, Moby performs in the Royal Festival Hall on the eve of the release of his new album Wait For Me. After a number of top 40 hits in the 1990s, his 1999 release Play sold over 10 million copies, and became the soundtrack to an era.
“I can't think of anyone alive who's pushed things as far and as hard as Ornette Coleman. It's an honour to be asked to be a part of his Meltdown. His approach to music, and the integrity with which he's comported himself in all that he's done, is a big inspiration to me.”
Bobby McFerrin, one of the world’s best known vocal innovators and improvisers performs in the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday 17 June. Top of Ornette’s dream list for the festival, the ten times Grammy-winning artist has collaborated with everyone from Herbie Hancock and Yo Yo Ma to the Vienna Philharmonic in a 30-year career that has seen him sell some 20 million records.
On Thursday 18 June, Coleman devotee, fellow New Yorker and improv. queen Patti Smith (director of Meltdown in 2005) appears for the first time in the UK in a collaboration with The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra, the inspired Canadian collective who are no strangers to the dark arts of improvisation.
On Saturday 20 June, bassist and band leader Charlie Haden, one of the original members of Ornette’s quartet from the late 1950s, brings his excellent Liberation Music Orchestra with free jazz luminary Carla Bley to the Royal Festival Hall for a night that will feature Robert Wyatt and other guest artists to be confirmed. This show will be a double bill with US jazz improv band The Bad Plus, whose inventive re-workings of material ranging from Radiohead to Bowie never fail to thrill.
Charlie Haden, band leader and bassist in Ornette’s original quartet, said:
“When I first saw him play the heavens opened up for me.”
Meltdown concludes with two unmissable concerts that demonstrate just why Ornette Coleman has been regarded as a towering influence, ever since the late 1950s. Following on from his electrifying concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 2007, Ornette returns to perform Reflections of The Shape of Jazz To Come (Friday 19 June). Two nights later he closes the festival with Reflections of This is Our Music (Sunday 21 June). Both concerts will feature Ornette Coleman on sax, violin and trumpet, Al MacDowell on electric bass, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass and Denardo Coleman on drums.
Tickets on sale to Southbank Centre Members on Wednesday 29 April at 10am.
Tickets on general sale Thursday 30 April at 10am.
The Roots with guest David Murray & more
Produced in association with Jill Newman Productions
Saturday 13 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £27.50 £22.50
The legendary hip-hop outfit open the festival
David Murray & Gwo-Ka Masters
+ Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Saturday 13 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £20 £18
Saxophonist and clarinet virtuoso David Murray teams up with Guadeloupian percussionist Gwo Kan Masters and Coleman collaborator Jamaaladeen Tacuma.
Yoko Ono Plastic One Band
Featuring Sean Lennon, Cornelius & special guests
Sunday 14 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20
This is the first ever UK performance by Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
Monday 15 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £22.50 £20
The Senegalese superstar returns to the Royal Festival Hall.
Yo La Tengo
Monday 15 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £17.50 £15
Yo La Tengo perform as part of their intimate and interactive Freewheeling Tour.
Tuesday 16 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £22.50 £20
Moby performs on the eve of the release of his new album Wait For Me.
Wednesday 17 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £30 £25
Top of Ornette’s dream list, Bobby McFerrin, one of the world’s best known vocal innovators and improvisers performs in the Royal Festival Hall.
Patti Smith & The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra
Thursday 18 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20
The director of Meltdown in 2005 appears for the first time in the UK in collaboration with inspired Canadian collective A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra.
Reflections of The Shape of Jazz To Come
Friday 19 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £40 £30 £20
Ornette performs reflections of The Shape of Jazz To Come
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra
With guests Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt
+ The Bad Plus
Saturday 20 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £30 £25
Bassist and band leader Charlie Haden, one of the original members of Ornette’s quartet from the late 1950s, brings his excellent Liberation Music Orchestra.
Reflections of This is Our Music
Sunday 21 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £40 £30 £20
Ornette closes the festival with reflections of This is Our Music