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Ornette Coleman Sues 'Fela!' Musician for Releasing Album Without Permission

by Ryan Book   May 31, 2015 09:01 AM EDT

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We've gotten used to older musicians suing younger performers regarding unlicensed samples or for copping a vibe—a la Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for "Blurred Lines"—but now we've got two sets of performers fighting a legal battle over a release far from the spotlight. Ornette Coleman, probably the most influential figure in the free jazz movement, is suing Jordan McLean of Antibalas, an Afrobeat band that served as the house band for the Broadway musical Fela!, for allegedly releasing a set of recordings by the pair without permission from Coleman

McLean, trumpet player for Antibalas and operator of the System Dialing label, had the chance to meet Coleman during 2009, and was even invited to play with the icon. Perhaps for the sake of remembering the experience, McLean recorded the session. Things got sour when he asked Coleman if he could release the album. Coleman and his estate declined, and requested that he turn over the recordings...just in case temptation got the better of him. 

According to Coleman's estate, temptation got the better of McLean and New Vocabulary was released during December of 2014. McLean, of course, disagrees with the allegations made by Denardo Coleman, the saxophonist's son and drummer, who is serving as his legal guardian. 

"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," McLean said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded."

Coleman's side will be seeking both actual and punitive damages, injunctive costs and attorney fees, citing the Anti-Bootlegging Act and the Lanham Act, which trademark disputes revolve around. 

Sometimes it's better to just stick with a selfie, we suppose. 

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