Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman

Something Else!!!!

Riverside

There’s a bunch of exclamation points in this title, but the music backs it up. Coleman played alto sax and takes us into the heart of the bop movement, a dark and foreboding continent first charted in the 1950s. His 13-bar arrangements abandon the chords and chord progressions that underpinned Western music and composition for centuries, and after a lifetime of “getting used to” this style of bebop jazz, it’s still a challenge for any of us to sift through the sounds and reconstruct just what Coleman is doing. Maybe that’s thinking too hard about the sound; it is possible to sit back and groove along so long as you don’t try to snap your fingers. Coleman will trick you into a groove and then jump somewhere else so fast your head spins.

Opening this disc we hear “Invisible.” It almost sounds like he’s playing it backwards, but the piano (Walter Norris) and drums (Billy Higgins) ground this tune in a reasonably conventional sound as Coleman plays around them like a child fueled on Lucky Charms and Pepsi. Sometimes a single note fills a bar, other times 20 or 30 take flight. “The Blessing” and “Jayne” follow, each holding to the same premise: the guys in the back are just that, backdrop, and they counterpoint the wild explorations of the guy in front. By “Chippie,” the piano slides forward a bit, Coleman allows it a chord or two, but soon he’s flying ahead with the band in tow. Don Cherry gets in a trumpet lick now and again, and a guy named Don Payne valiantly trundles along on bass, but this is Coleman’s show, make no mistake. There are nine tracks here and no bonus material, but this album is plenty strong in its original format. While each bar is different in each song, there’s a unity of sound here. The opening and closing tracks seem brighter and harder, but all reflect a precision and wildness in Coleman’s composition style. This may be the least accessible disc in this recent Concord/Riverside re-release project, but it’s certainly the most interesting. But it never answers the biggest question: how does he keep all these notes straight in his head?

Concord Music Group: www.concordmusicgroup.com

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