Earlier this year, a new Ornette Coleman recording — the first of its kind in nearly 20 years — materialized on the indie label System Dialing Records.
“It was weeks, if not months, of just hanging out, socializing, jamming,” label co-founder Jordan McLean told me in February. “It was an evolution in the way of a friendship. For me, a totally surreal, intergenerational friendship with someone whose music I’d studied pretty closely for 20 years [and who] turned out to be one of the sweetest human beings you’d ever want to meet and talk to.”
But the resulting album, New Vocabulary, is now in the midst of a less-than-harmonious situation.
Coleman and his guardian since 2013, his son, Denardo, filed suit on May 19 in White Plains, New York, against McLean and Amir Ziv, another System Dialing Records co-founder, claiming the two men bootlegged “private audio recordings” of Coleman, in violation of the federal anti-bootlegging statute, according to a report from Courthouse News Service. Both McLean and Ziv appear as performers on Vocabulary, along with pianist Adam Holzman.
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“Denardo Coleman accuses McLean, Ziv and System Dialing Records of violating the Anti-Bootlegging Act and the Lanham Act,” reports Courthouse News Service’s Mike Heuer. “He also accuses them of unfair completion and violating New York’s General Business Law. Coleman seeks injunctive relief, actual damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.”
UPDATED 5/27: Earlier today, Coleman’s publicist released a statement about the federal lawsuit, providing a few more details about the specific charges being leveled against McLean and Ziv.
“Years after making the recordings of Coleman's teaching sessions, McLean asked if he could release them,” the statement reads, in part. “Coleman denied the request both directly and through his attorney and asked that the material be turned over to him. McLean instead released the recordings, forcing Coleman to seek legal recourse.”
Additionally, Coleman’s federal lawsuit alleges that “an individual not recorded at the sessions” — likely pianist Adam Holzman — “is credited as having participated”; “music was added to the recordings after the fact” and “the public is likely to be misled into believing that Coleman approves of, or is affiliated with, the public release of these recordings.”
The statement goes on to note that last year’s “Celebrate Ornette” tribute concert in Brooklyn, which featured performances from Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Patti Smith, Flea and Savion Glover, among others, will be released this fall in a “deluxe box set,” which will be the first “official and authorized release by Coleman” since his 2006, Pulitzer Prize-winning live album Sound Grammar.
Late in the afternoon of May 27, Amir Ziv sent NPR reporter Anastasia Tsioulcas the following statement: “New Vocabulary is a collaborative, joint work by professional musicians Jordan McLean, Amir Ziv, and Ornette Coleman, made with the willing involvement of each artist. The album is the end result of multiple deliberate and dedicated recording sessions done with the willing participation and consent of Mr. Coleman and the other performers. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and we deny any allegations of wrongdoing. For any further comment, we refer you to our attorney Justin S. Stern at Frigon Maher & Stern LLP.”
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713