Ornette Coleman’s sad recent passing reminded me of an amazing, almost totally forgotten ‘documentary’ that is begging for a DVD re-release (though it may be available in the US).
Shirley Clarke’s 1985 film ‘Ornette: Made In America‘ centres around Coleman’s 1983 return to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, to receive the keys to the city from the mayor, open his Caravan Of Dreams venue and also perform astonishing orchestral work The Skies Of America (29th September 1983 was officially named Ornette Coleman Day).
The film weaves in re-imaginings of Coleman’s childhood in segregated Texas, surreal music-video images and talking-head tributes from scientists, writers, musicians, philosophers and William Burroughs about the impact and importance of Ornette’s music. Ornette himself is interviewed at length and we see him in conversation with family and friends.
It really is a trip, in the best sense of the word, and one of the great jazz films. I taped it off air from Channel Four in the UK when it got a one-off showing in the late-’80s. I watched it again a few weeks ago – it’s still a classic.