It's amazing how quickly what was billed as the future of jazz became its past. In 1959 when saxophonist Ornette Coleman
released his third album, he wanted to call it Focus On Sanity
. Instead, at the insistence of Atlantic producer Nesuhi Ertegun, it was portentously titled The Shape Of Jazz To Come
. Other musicians took heed and the free jazz movement was born.
Commercially this was a disaster for jazz, with record buyers deserting the music en masse
. But Coleman and fellow pioneers such as Don Cherry
and Albert Ayler
stayed true to their tendentious creation, giving the music its own vocabulary and values. New York trumpeter Chris Pasin
is the latest modern musician to re-examine the legacy of Coleman et al
(ouch!). He makes a pretty good job of it, staying true to the principles of free jazz but avoiding its worst excesses.
The opener, "OCDC," is one of Pasin's own compositions and it has its moments... quite a few of them in fact. As does Coleman's own "Jayne," dedicated to his wife, the poet Jayne Cortez, who died in 2012, three years before her husband.
Albert Ayler's "Ghosts," was the title track of that way-out saxophonist's second album, recorded in Copenhagen. The number appeared in two versions: short
for the cowardly, extended
for the brave. Pasin's treatment features Ingrid Sertso reciting lyrics and there's some fine vibraphone from Karl Berger. As the song comes to an end, the band plays the same figure over and over again, drowning out Sertso. But, true to her sex, she gets in the last word, saying, quite distinctly, with no musical accompaniment, "We love you, Albert Ayler." To which one can only comment, "Speak for yourself."
"Tomorrow Is The Question" is the title track of another Coleman album from 1959. It's actually remarkably light-hearted, a vehicle for Adam Siegel
on alto. His solo is followed by Pasin, showing off his considerable chops on trumpet.
"Just For You" is a lovely, lyrical ballad by Coleman, recorded for The Shape Of Jazz To Come
but left off of the original album, presumably because it wasn't avant-garde
enough for Ertegun.
On "When Will The Blues Leave" Sertso actually answers the question posed by the title with an emphatic "Never." Then she goes on to recite another indistinct lyric on Coleman's best-known composition, "Lonely Woman."
All in all: an interesting album, conjuring up for this reviewer time past and misbegotten dreams of youth. Though it's a pity about the awkward, unfunny, pun of the titlecome back, Nesuhi Ertegun: all is forgiven.