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Ornette Coleman: Town Hall 1962

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When Ornette Coleman promoted this concert in December 1962, he was already in the midst of a long withdrawal from the public stage. Until the Town Hall event, his 1962 performances had consisted of a single concert and a week at the Jazz Gallery six months previously. Further, he hadn't recorded in a studio since March 1961. Following the concert, he wouldn't perform or record commercially until 1965.

This concert is one of the essential Coleman documents, an extension of the raw, angular music he had developed in the early years of his public career (1957-61) and an increasing sense of fluid group dialogue. Coleman is joined here in three selections by bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett, the same musicians he would work with in 1965. The group's uncanny ease with one another is apparent immediately in the joyously ebullient "Doughnut," Moffett setting up a lively and flexible rhythmic pattern against which Coleman and Izenzon bounce happily. "Sadness" is an extraordinary tone poem, Coleman's bending saxophone tones surrounded by Izenzon's bowed bass acting as a virtual string quartet. The 24-minute "The Ark" is a landmark in Coleman's recorded performances, a dense expanding oration in which his lyrical, blues-drenched lines reach continuously outward through the responsive weave of bass and drums.

Opting for a metal alto rather than his previously customary plastic one, Coleman develops a distinctively harder, brighter sound than that heard on earlier performances. The recording also includes Coleman's first performed foray into through-composed music, the string quartet "Dedication to Poets and Writers." It's more than competent work, rooted in modernist conventions, its opening figure developed with a freedom uncharacteristic of the genre. The CD contains the same music originally issued in 1965; the remainder of the concert is still unissued, including the piece called "Blues Misused" that combined the Coleman trio with an R&B trio, at once echoing the double quartet of Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1960) and prefiguring the aesthetic of Prime Time.

Track Listing: Doughnut; Sadness; Dedication to Poets and Writers; The Ark.

Personnel: Ornette Coleman; alto saxophone; David Izenson: bass; Charles Moffett, percussion. Selwart Clarke: violin (3); Nathan Goldstein: violin (3); Julien Barber: viola (3); Kermit Moore: cello (3).

Title: Town Hall 1962 | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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