All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

315

Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!! - The Music Of Ornette Coleman

AAJ Staff By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Here it is: Ornette's first recording, containing his most conventional compositions, one ("The Blessing") written in 1951. Even so, it came only after a long period of struggle ("...most musicians didn't take to me; they said I didn't know the changes and was out of tune.") He was an elevator operator in an L.A. department store; he'd take the elevator to the top floor and practice for hours. He was about to return to Forth Worth when Red Mitchell heard a tune of his; it led to an audition and two albums for Contemporary, of which this is the first. It was a signpost, leading to a pathbreaking career.

Two things should be done when hearing this: you should remember Ornette's horn is plastic, and you should forget his later work. His tone sounds a little muffled, mushy perhaps; it has little of the sharp ringing tone of altos like Cannonball or Art Pepper. Don Cherry, the trumpeter heard on much of his work, says "it has a drier, warmer sound without the ping of the metal...He can now express on his horn what he hears, and he has a very unusual ear." Admittedly, the plastic tone sounds funny to these ears, though it does contribute to the feel of this record.

These are also early compositions, using chords, which he would soon abandon on his Atlantic sides. Those wanting free jazz will have to look elsewhere. There are moments of dissonance here (in the theme of "The Disguise"), but this is largely a straight-ahead date, with the corners slightly askew. There is much worth hearing here, especially the compositions, which received the bulk of the praise when this was originally released. My favorite tunes here would be "The Blessing" and "The Disguise"; "Alpha" and "The Sphinx" are also worth mention. Don Cherry has several fine moments and possibly takes instrumental honors. He has a good muted solo on "The Blessing", and strong moments on "Jayne" and "Chippie". Ornette's best solo comes on "When Will the Blues Leave?" and "The Sphinx". While totally competent, the rhythm section (especially Walter Norris on piano) seems to be a strict mainstream vein, and perhaps more avant-garde players would have gotten more out of these tunes. (Norris gets a few solos, but none really stand out.) As played, only the horns command attention, which is just as well, considering it's Ornette's show, and that of his tunes.

Where did this record lead? Not far, at least at the moment. A follow-up album, TOMORROW IS THE QUESTION!, was made in 1959, but jobs were still scarce. He moved to New York and signed with Atlantic, resulting in the albums which remain the basis of his reputation. This record was a foot in the door; the big noise (and big it was) would come later.

| Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

Building a Jazz Library
Genius Guide to Jazz
My Blue Note Obsession
Wide Open Jazz and Beyond
The Mort Report
Reassessing
Read more articles
The Best Of Ornette Coleman - Ornette Coleman Quartet
The Best Of Ornette...
Atlantic
2012
buy
Six Classic Albums
Six Classic Albums
Real Gone Music
2012
buy
Original Album Series
Original Album Series
Atlantic Records
2011
buy
Three Classic Albums
Three Classic Albums
Real Gone Music
2010
buy
Town Hall 1962
Town Hall 1962
ESP Disk
2009
buy
To Whom Who Keeps a Record
To Whom Who Keeps a...
Water Music
2008
buy
John Coltrane John Coltrane
saxophone
Charles Mingus Charles Mingus
bass, acoustic
Eric Dolphy Eric Dolphy
reeds
Sun Ra Sun Ra
keyboard
Cecil Taylor Cecil Taylor
piano
William Parker William Parker
bass, acoustic

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.