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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 18, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
With two landmark albums already under its belt, the Ornette Coleman Quartet spent nearly a year out of the studio before reconvening for This Is Our Music. This time, Billy Higgins is replaced on drums by Ed Blackwell, who has a similar knack for anticipating the ensemble's direction, and proves a more fiery presence on tracks like "Kaleidoscope" and "Folk Tale." The session is also notable for containing the only standard (or, for that matter, the only non-original) Coleman recorded during his tenure with Atlantic -- Gershwin's "Embraceable You," which is given a lyrical interpretation and even a rather old-time, sentimental intro (which may or may not be sarcastic, but really is pretty). In general, though, Coleman disapproved of giving up his own voice and viewed standards as concessions to popular taste; as the unapologetic title of the album makes clear, he wanted to be taken (or left) on his own terms. And that word "our" also makes clear just how important the concept of group improvisation was to Coleman's goals. Anyone can improvise whenever he feels like it, and the players share such empathy that each knows how to add to the feeling of the ensemble without undermining its egalitarian sense of give and take. Their stark, thin textures were highly distinctive, and both Coleman and Cherry chose instruments (respectively, an alto made of plastic rather than brass and a pocket trumpet or cornet instead of a standard trumpet) to accentuate that quality. It's all showcased to best effect here on the hard-swinging "Blues Connotation" and the haunting "Beauty Is a Rare Thing," though pretty much every composition has something to recommend it. All in all, This Is Our Music keeps one of the hottest creative streaks in jazz history going strong. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | Blue Note Records

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Free Jazz & Avant-Garde - Released May 25, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic

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Miles Davis had publicly called him a madman. Leonard Bernstein found him, for his part, completely awesome. Few were those that didn’t have a definitive opinion on Ornette Coleman. Some kind of outlaw who preferred playing his own compositions rather than jazz classics, the American saxophonist also developed harmolodics, a theory uniting harmonics and melody. Coleman would remain a trailblazer, a spoilsport who would influence legions of musicians, and would also annoy a good number of them… This box of ten discs compiles one of the most important era in the career of his author. Between 1959 and 1961, he released six studio albums for the Atlantic label. Six albums that are present here and spiced up with alternative takes and various bonuses, all of this of course impeccably remastered by John Webber. Through the opuses The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959), Change Of The Century (1959), This Is Our Music (1960), Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (1960), Ornette! (1961) and Ornette On Tenor (1961), and the compilations The Art Of Improvisers (1970), Twins (1971), To Whom Who Keeps A Record (1975) and The Ornette Coleman Legacy (1993), we discover the protean art of a musician that had never stopped reassessing himself. A singular and unique voice assisted by other singular and unique voices like Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

While it's true this set has been given the highest rating AMG awards, it comes with a qualifier: the rating is for the music and the package, not necessarily the presentation. Presentation is a compiler's nightmare in the case of artists like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, who recorded often and at different times and had most of their recordings issued from the wealth of material available at the time a record was needed rather than culling an album from a particular session. Why is this a problem? It's twofold: First is that listeners got acquainted with recordings such as The Shape of Jazz to Come, This Is Our Music, Change of the Century, Twins, or any of the other four records Ornette Coleman released on Atlantic during that period. The other is one of economics; for those collectors who believe in the integrity of the original albums, they need to own both those recordings and this set, since the box features one album that was only issued in Japan as well as six unreleased tunes and the three Coleman compositions that appeared on Gunther Schuller's Jazz Abstractions record. Politically what's interesting about this box is that though the folks at Rhino and Atlantic essentially created a completely different document here, putting Coleman's music in a very different context than the way in which it was originally presented, his royalty rate was unchanged -- he refused to do any publicity for this set when it was issued as a result. As for the plus side of such a collection, there is a certain satisfaction at hearing complete sessions in context. That cannot be argued -- what is at stake is at what price to the original recorded presentations. Enough complaining. As for the music, as mentioned, the original eight albums Coleman recorded for Atlantic are here, in one form or another, in their entirety: Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, The Art of the Improvisers, Twins, This Is Our Music, Free Jazz, Ornette, and Ornette on Tenor, plus To Whom Keeps a Record, comprised of recordings dating from 1959 to 1960. In fact all of the material here was recorded between 1959 and 1961. Given that there is a total of six completely unreleased compositions as well as alternate takes and masters, this is a formidable mountain of material recorded with not only the classic quartet of Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, but also the large double quartet who produced the two-sided improvisation that is Free Jazz with personalities as diverse as Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, and Scott LaFaro, as well as Coleman, Cherry, Haden, and Ed Blackwell, who had replaced Higgins on the music for To Whom Keeps a Record and This Is Our Music -- though Higgins does play on Free Jazz. The progression of the recording sessions musically is one of dynamics, color, and, with the addition of Blackwell, firepower. As the listener moves from the first session that would become most of The Shape of Jazz to Come, listeners can hear how the interplay between Cherry and Coleman works lyrically not so much as a system, but as system of the creation of melody from dead fragments of harmony, thereby creating a harmonic sensibility that cares not for changes and chord progressions, but for the progression of music itself in the context of a quartet. From the sharp edges on "Focus on Sanity," through "Peace" and "Congeniality," through "Lonely Woman," Coleman's approach to harmony was one of disparate yet wholly compatible elements. This is the story as the sessions unfold, one kind of lyricism evolving into itself more fully and completely with time. On Change of the Century, Twins, and This Is Our Music, Coleman shifts his emphasis slightly, adding depth and dimension and the creation of melody that comes out of the blues as direct and simply stated as possible. By the time LaFaro enters the picture on Free Jazz and Art of the Improvisers, melody has multiplied and divided itself into essence, and essence becomes an exponential force in the creation of a new musical syntax. The recordings from 1960 and 1961, along with the unreleased masters and alternates, all show Coleman fully in possession of his muse. The trek of musicians through the band -- like Jimmy Garrison and Eric Dolphy, as well as people like Jim Hall and Bill Evans where Coleman appeared in Gunther Schuller's experiments -- all reveal that from The Shape of Jazz to Come through Ornette on Tenor, Coleman was trying to put across the fully developed picture of his musical theory of the time. And unlike most, he completely succeeded. Even on the unreleased compositions, such as the flyaway storm of "Revolving Doors" or "PROOF Readers" or the slippery blues of "The Tribes of New York," Coleman took the open-door approach and let everything in -- he didn't necessarily let it all out. The package itself is, as are all Rhino boxes, handsome and original; there are three double-CD sleeves that all slip into a half box, which slips, reversed, into the whole box. There is a 68-page booklet with a ton of photographs, complete session notes, and liners by Coleman (disappointingly brief, but he was pissed off at the label), a fantastic essay by the late Robert Palmer, recollections by all the musicians, and quotes from Coleman from interviews given through the decades. The sound is wonderful and the mastering job superb. In all -- aside from the breach of pop culture's own historical context, which is at least an alternate reality -- this is, along with John Coltrane's Atlantic set and the Miles & Coltrane box, one of the most essential jazz CD purchases. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Blue Note Records

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Free Jazz & Avant-Garde - Released May 25, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic

Miles Davis had publicly called him a madman. Leonard Bernstein found him, for his part, completely awesome. Few were those that didn’t have a definitive opinion on Ornette Coleman. Some kind of outlaw who preferred playing his own compositions rather than jazz classics, the American saxophonist also developed harmolodics, a theory uniting harmonics and melody. Coleman would remain a trailblazer, a spoilsport who would influence legions of musicians, and would also annoy a good number of them… This box of ten discs compiles one of the most important era in the career of his author. Between 1959 and 1961, he released six studio albums for the Atlantic label. Six albums that are present here and spiced up with alternative takes and various bonuses, all of this of course impeccably remastered by John Webber. Through the opuses The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959), Change Of The Century (1959), This Is Our Music (1960), Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (1960), Ornette! (1961) and Ornette On Tenor (1961), and the compilations The Art Of Improvisers (1970), Twins (1971), To Whom Who Keeps A Record (1975) and The Ornette Coleman Legacy (1993), we discover the protean art of a musician that had never stopped reassessing himself. A singular and unique voice assisted by other singular and unique voices like Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released August 22, 2018 | nagel heyer records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Blue Note Records

Ornette Coleman's 1965 trio with bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett is easily the most underrated of all his bands. Coming off the light of the famed quartet in which Don Cherry, Eddie Blackwell, and Charlie Haden shone, anything might have looked a bit dimmer, it's true. But this band certainly had no apologies to make. Coleman was deep into creating a new approach to melody, since Haden and Cherry had honed his harmonic sensibilities. Izenzon proved to be the right bassist for Coleman to realize his ambitions. A stunning arco as well as pizzicato player (check his solo in "Dawn") Izenzon offered Coleman the perfect foil. No matter where Coleman's soloing moved the band, Izenzon was there at exactly the same time with an uncanny sense of counterpoint, and he often changed the harmonic mode by force. The first of these two volumes from December 3 shows Coleman in a playful, mischievous frame of mind, toying with the trio ads well as the audience on "Faces and Places" by inserting standard bop phrases and song quotes into the heart of his free soloing. On "Dee Dee," Coleman moves along to rhythmic counterpoint by Moffett, pushing Izenzon into the unlikely role of beat-keeper -- not simple for such an amazing improviser. But it's on the closer, "Dawn," that the band gels as one inseparable, ethereal unit, cascading through scalar invention and chromatic interplay as if it were second nature. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1986 | Geffen

Guitarist Pat Metheny had long expressed admiration for Ornette Coleman's music, had recorded his compositions, and had worked extensively with bassist Charlie Haden, so a collaboration was not totally unexpected, though who would have guessed that it would be on the Geffen label? Metheny's almost rock star status has worked against him in other partnerships from time to time (notably, his overbearing playing on his project with Derek Bailey, The Sign of 4), but here he happily sublimates his showier instincts and works as sympathetic co-leader, deferring to Coleman's experience and genius. The music itself bears strong similarities to that of Coleman's Prime Time ensembles wherein all players solo at once, bracketed by the themes of the piece. Metheny often manages to be a quite expressive second voice, racing along beside the master saxophonist, offering alternative strategies and never showboating. The tandem percussion team of Jack DeJohnette and Coleman's son Denardo are ferocious when need be, and Charlie Haden is his standard exemplary self. Metheny fans owe it to themselves to listen to some of his most exploratory and least "pastel" playing and, in fact, the album also contains some of Coleman's best work since the mid-'70s. © Brian Olewnick /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Blue Note Records

Recorded during the same session that resulted in the Love Call album (in late April and early May of 1968), New York Is Now is one of the true curiosity pieces in Ornette's catalog. With a rhythm section comprised of ex-Coltrane sidemen Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones as well as tenorist Dewey Redman, Ornette is, in some sense, at odds with himself here. This particular rhythm section is a lot more modally than harmonically propelled -- especially Jones, who sounds here like he doesn't know what to do with himself in the restrictive tempos -- and creates a complex set of issues for Coleman and Redman to contend with. That said, on "The Garden of Souls," which opens the album, Coleman makes the most of this sprightly, energetic rhythm team and moves through quotations of "Moon River," "Danny Boy," and even Paul Muriat's "Love Is Blue" during his solo, before shifting the harmonics around and anchoring them somewhere between E flat 7 and E major. On "Broadway Blues," Coleman actually makes use of Monk in his melodic conception, and he and Redman have a go at turning a seven-note vamp into all sorts of knotty material for soloing -- you can almost feel Jones smile as the tempo reaches triple time; the saxophonists have to race each other through it. And while this date is of only marginal interest it is pleasant if not amazing -- with the exception of "For a Commercial," which features Ornette's strident violin playing above the rest of the band in the mix. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 1, 2009 | Rhino Atlantic

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Africa - Released April 10, 2020 | Auroa Black

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Jazz - Released November 6, 2000 | Columbia - Legacy

In conjunction with the release of Ken Burns' ten-part, 19-hour epic PBS documentary Jazz, Columbia issued 22 single-disc compilations devoted to jazz's most significant artists, as well as a five-disc historical summary. Since the individual compilations attempt to present balanced overviews of each artist's career, tracks from multiple labels have thankfully been licensed where appropriate. The Ornette Coleman installment of Ken Burns Jazz naturally concentrates on his hugely influential recordings for Atlantic, but also devotes four of the 11 tracks to his equally controversial '70s output, including the electric Prime Time band. Given the limitations of the single-disc format, the compilers have successfully represented the most important phases of Coleman's career. There's one piece from his formative pre-Atlantic years, which is followed by several less structured yet melodic Coleman classics like "Lonely Woman" and "Ramblin'," plus his legendary inside-out version of "Embraceable You." Coleman's Free Jazz (A Collective Improvisation) album was a landmark, but including its one 37-minute track would hardly have made for a balanced retrospective, so the compilers instead wisely chose "First Take," a sort of dry run for Free Jazz that's less than half that length and appeared on the Atlantic box. There's also one selection apiece from the frequently fascinating '70s albums Science Fiction, Skies of America, Dancing in Your Head, and Body Meta, which found Coleman experimenting with world music, large orchestras, and electric funk/free jazz fusion. The only glaring omission is the classic "Una Muy Bonita," probably Coleman's secondary signature tune after "Lonely Woman." Of course, there's a lot more Coleman that should be heard, but all things considered -- especially since it draws from multiple labels -- Ken Burns Jazz is likely the most comprehensive single-disc Coleman compilation that will ever be released. © Steve Huey /TiVo