Ornette has struck a chord! May-June 2020

Reviews of Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure (Reaktion Books, London)

‘[Ornette Coleman] was the shock of the new… Golia writes scenically about Coleman’s birthplace, Fort Worth, Texas, where Jim Crow and music were everywhere… With a pointillist’s talent for detail, [she] shows how Coleman’s origins in Texas blues gave way to abstraction on landmark records … ultimately leading him to create the musical paradigm he called “harmolodics.”… The “free” in [Coleman’s] “free jazz” is an ambivalent word. It doesn’t refer to the absence of oppression or musical rules, but instead the struggle to imagine a place beyond them both. In that sense, Coleman’s definition of freedom was radically inclusive, both politically and musically.’ – Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic   Full review here

Ms. Golia aptly outlines the aesthetic dilemma, when “jazz had become aware of itself and its strengths” …[and] writes with demystifying clarity about the manifestations of compassion and rigor behind Coleman’s search for “unison” and the musical system he called “harmolodics.” [She] notably grounds Coleman’s identity in his hometown, reconstructing an “idiosyncratic collage of radio broadcasts from Harlem, Western Swing fiddlers, Tejano two-steps, high-school marching bands, and the rhythm and blues that issued from storefront churches”…[Ornette Coleman, the Territory and the Adventure] opens ears yet further to the transformative power of Coleman’s music. – Larry Blumenfeld, Wall St. Journal  Download PDF  here.

‘Fittingly unconventional. . . . Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure is an atlas in prose, a guide to the territories of varied sorts—social, racial, aesthetic, economic and even geographic—that Coleman came out of, traveled through, lived near, occupied, left behind or transformed.’  – David Hadju, New York Times Book Review.  Full review here.


“Ornette Coleman” by Frederick J. Brown, 1992. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute.

‘[Unlike previous books about Ornette]  Golia takes a broader approach, situating the great saxophonist and composer in his cultural, social and geographical contexts. Each of the four sections pivots on a particular time and place, establishing the territory then striking out on an adventure in a manner akin to a Coleman solo  . . . By deftly tracing these connections and transformations, Golia has created a valuable and highly engaging survey of Coleman’s harmolodic life.’ – Stewart Smith, The Wire (UK)  Download PDF Oc.review.theWire‘ (Great that The Wire published this to coincide with 5th anniversary of Ornette’s passing, June 11, 2015)

One of the finest books on the power of place and influence in a musician’s life.’ — Andrew Male, Mojo (UK)

‘Golia takes us on a guided tour, not just of Coleman’s mind and music but of the country and state that birthed him and made him into a permanent outlaw and outlier. She clearly designates the framework of the biography of this titanic figure, demonstrating that the individuals who may be said to define an era have generally distilled its characteristic forces and possibilities into a consistent body of work that has in turn transformed the times in which they lived and worked. In other words, Ornette is a mirror of the very America which often found it so hard to incorporate him into its artistic, musical and cultural fabric.’  – thoughtfully felt review by Donald Brackett, Critics at Large, here.

‘A wide-ranging biography of the great saxophonist, and musical tendencies that converged to make him the “patron saint of all things dissonant and defiant.”‘  Julian Lucas, Harper’s Magazine

‘Eloquently describes the Ornette phenomenon in a book laden with musical and social insights.’ — Chris Searle, The Morning Star

‘There are lots of fascinating anecdotes, stories and previously unpublished photographs in Golia’s book. She has compiled a detailed, interesting story of his career.’ — Martin Chilton, udiscovermusic.com

Here’s what author Gary Giddins (long-time Village Voice music columnist); Pat Metheny (20-time Grammy award-winning guitarist, composer, and friend and collaborator of Ornette) and Ethan Iverson (musician, critic and founding member of The Bad Plus) had to say:

‘The history of jazz is often told as a geographical adventure in which a great art enlightens and assimilates a chain of territories in the course of world conquest. Maria Golia revitalizes that narrative in exploring the life and genius of Ornette Coleman. This is the most incisive portrait we have of him – a joyous addition to the literature of music.’ — Gary Giddins

‘Following Ornette’s departure from the planet, his presence in the world only seems to increase and his music’s influence will no doubt continue far into the future. The poetic conception of music, sound, and life in the broadest sense that Ornette embodied is addressed here through the terrific writing of Ms. Golia. This volume is an excellent addition to the ongoing study of one of the greatest improvising musicians of all time.’ — Pat Metheny

‘It’s always good to learn more about one of America’s greatest musicians, and Golia’s work has much that is new, especially (at last) a proper overview of Ornette’s experience in his hometown of Fort Worth, both in his youth and the 1980s. The Territory and the Adventure is the best book on Ornette Coleman yet.’ — Ethan Iverson

Radio program with daytime talk-show host Richard Eeds, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 3, 2020. Interview with Joe Maita, of jerryjazzmusician.com

About the book: 

Few people in any given age may be called its true contemporaries, for embodying the strivings and achievements of their time, distilling its characteristic forces and possibilities into a body of work and experience. African-American composer and musician (alto and tenor sax, trumpet, violin) Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 19, 1930 – June 11, 2015) was zeitgeist incarnate, not only for his music but the places and people that influenced it and the ideas that drove it forward. Born in segregated Fort Worth, Texas during the Depression, Ornette and jazz grew up together, as the brassy blare of big band swing gave way to bebop, a faster music for a faster, post-war world. A defiant young man, he turned to free jazz, a break-away art appropriate to the Space Age that challenged the musical boundaries of the known.

Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure describes the places, situations and encounters that informed Ornette’s struggle for creative expression, an effort that lies at the heart of the human experience. The virtuosity, receptive listening and calibrated response his ensembles demonstrated were intended as a model not just for jazz, but all genuine communication and his influence is acknowledged by artists of every discipline. Ornette remarked: “The theme you play at the start of the number is the territory. And what comes after, which may have very little to do with it, is the adventure.” This book explores the themes behind the work of one of America’s most adventurous artists. 

Click here to order.

Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure is dedicated to the memory of my brother, musician, composer and educator,  Francis J. Golia Jr. (August 10, 1945 – February 2, 2019).


About mariagolia

An American author in Egypt....
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