But Ornette’s a jealous kind of dude, man. Jealous of other musicians’ success. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. For him—a sax player—to pick up a trumpet and violin like that and just think he can play them with no kind of training is disrespectful toward all those people who play them well. And then to sit up and pontificate about them when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about is not cool, man. But you know, music’s all just sounds anyway. The violin is okay as an instrument and I guess you can get away with playing it as a kind of filler in places if you don’t really know how to play it. I don’t mean soloing or nothing like that, just hitting a few notes here and there. But if you don’t know how to play the trumpet, it sounds terrible. People who know how to play it can play it even when it’s all stopped up. As long as you play in rhythm, even if the horn’s all fucked, as long as it fits, you can do that. You just have to play a style. If you play a ballad, you play a ballad. But Ornette couldn’t do that on trumpet because he didn’t know anything about the instrument. But Ornette’s cool; I just wish he wasn’t so jealous.
I liked Ornette and Don as people, and I thought Ornette was playing more than Don was. But I didn’t see or hear anything in their playing that was all that revolutionary, and I said so. Trane was there a lot more than I was, watching and listening, but he didn’t say nothing like I did. A whole lot of the younger players and critics jumped down my throat after I put down Ornette, called me “old-fashioned” and shit. But I didn’t like what they were playing, especially Don Cherry on that little horn he had. It just looked to me like he was playing a lot of notes and looking real serious, and people went for that because people will go for anything they don’t understand if it’s got enough hype. They want to be hip, want always to be in on the new thing so they don’t look unhip. White people are especially like that, particularly when a black person is doing some-thing they don’t understand. They don’t want to have to admit that a black person could be doing something that they don’t know about. Or that he could be maybe a little more—or a whole lot more—intelligent than them. They can’t stand to admit that kind of shit to themselves, so they run around talking about how great it is until the next “new thing” comes along, and then the next and then the next and then the next. That’s what I thought was happening when Ornette hit town.
Now, what Ornette did a few years later was hip, and I told him so. But what they were doing back in the beginning was just being spontaneous in their playing, playing “free form,” bouncing off what each other was doing. That’s cool, but it had been done before, only they were doing it with no kind of form or structure and that’s the thing that was important about what they did, not their playing.