For many an Ornette Coleman
devotee, devotion was pledged with the singular saxophonist's The Shape of Jazz to Come
(Atlantic). It was recorded in May and released in November of 1959, and it's a matter of when in our life we caught up with it. For some of us, that's when we first felt liberated by jazz.
That album, produced by Nesuhi Ertegun, remains a hard act to follow, even for Coleman himself. Or to precede. But "Hollywood does love origin stories," says Ashley Kahn in the booklet notes accompanying this rerelease of a pair of albums recorded by Coleman at the beginning of 1959 and a year earlier, for Contemporary Records, in their West Hollywood studios, with Contemporary founder Lester Koenig producing.
The notes trace Coleman's origins back to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas and to early R&B gigs which ultimately bought his first ticket to Los Angeles, to which he later relocated. On the two albums which make up this setSomething Else!!!!
and Tomorrow Is the Question!
an R&B sensibility manifests more palpably than on the later Atlantic sides, particularly on tracks like "Angel Voice" and "Turnaround." On other tracks ("Mind and Time," "Endless"), the abiding influence of the pace and energy of bop is evident, not only in Coleman's alto but in the trumpet work, muted and not, by his longtime partner Don Cherry
(on both these discs), and by drummer Billy Higgins
(on Something Else!!!!
). They are the only two of the musicians here who make it over to The Shape of Jazz to Come
and on to collaborations with Coleman in subsequent decades.
Whatever the saxophonist's homages to genres already well populated, what we'd come to know and love as Coleman's wily syncopation and his special way with phrasing sound out distinctly on "Chippie," "The Disguise," and elsewhere. The reflective, dramatic "Lorraine" could be a cousin to Coleman's biggest hit, "Lonely Woman," the haunting opener to his debut Atlantic album. But what may surprise some fans is how much fun and play abound on these reissues. Also revealing is how well all these Coleman originals work for the other young seekers assembled here by Koenig, before their careers separated them from Coleman.
The rhythm section on Something Else!!!!
includes the tasty Don Payne
on bass and pianist Walter Norris
, who comps artfully and solos enticingly, sounding like he very much fits with a leader who'll soon distance himself from keyboards for many decades. Tomorrow Is the Question!
splits bass duty between Percy Heath
and Red Mitchell
, neither of whom take or are given the prominence later extended to Charlie Haden
, while Shelly Manne
arguably drums more delight into the mix than anyone else who's occupied that chair with Coleman. The tracks and the solos are brief throughout this set, but they make for a satisfying supplement and a refreshing discovery, no matter what one may think one knew.