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Ornette Coleman Quartet at the Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, Vermont

Hrayr Attarian By

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Ornette Coleman Quartet
Discover Jazz Festival, Flynn Theater
Burlington, Vermont
June 6th, 2008

Ornette Coleman and his quartet were the headline act that closed the exceptionally successful 25th Annual Discover Jazz Festival, playing to an almost full house at the Flynn Theatre in downtown Burlington on June 7th 2008. The musicians walked on stage, bowed to the audience and proceeded to play non-stop for 70 enchanting minutes.

No introductions were made, no tune names were called, no stories told. Coleman sat flanked by the two bassists: Tony Falanga on the stand up bass and Al MacDowell on electric bass. Behind him was his son Denardo on drums. Most of the tunes started by Falanga bowing a few notes on his bass, and then the group, led by Ornette on alto, took off. The music was complex, meandering at times, paying homage to a wide range of musical influences from the Baroque to Broadway to the Blues, which remained as always at the core of every tune.

Coleman's improvisations on the alto soared, hovered between the basses, became atonal at times but, much like a complex story with seemingly unrelated events, he brought it all to a satisfying conclusion. He switched to trumpet briefly and played a few notes, punctuating the conversation the two basses were having on some of the pieces. On the last tune before the encore, he concluded with a brief solo on the violin. For the most part, however, he stuck to the alto, and his sound on his main instrument was fluid and muscular, seamlessly switching from sad lament to joyful song.

Tony Falanga shone on the acoustic bass, especially when he kicked off one of the pieces by masterfully bowing the prelude of the Bach cello suite no 1 in G. On other numbers he also complemented Ornette's alto with his deep sense of the blues. Al MacDowell's mastery on his own instrument was evident from the start. He not only successfully switched from rhythmic support to melodic soloing but also coaxed sounds and rhythms of a piano out his electric bass.

Finally, Denardo Coleman was outstanding, driving the music and the musicians with his virtuoso drumming and frequently breaking free of the confines of the piece with an exceptional soaring solo and then drifting back into the structure of the tune. Among the pieces played were "Turnaround," "Matador" and "Sleep Talking." A standing ovation and calls for encore were rewarded by a beautiful rendition of "Lonely Woman."

This was an historic concert by one of the last living legends of American music—a testament that, after half a century, Ornette Coleman's music remains fresh and is still able to move, delight and provoke listeners.



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