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Jazz - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Stereophile: Record To Die For
This album belongs to a time when jazz record executives slapped broad boasts and proclamations onto their products. These usually celebrated the prowess of the artist (Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus) or the potency of the sounds (the Count Basie Orchestra's Atomic Basie). The Shape of Jazz To Come takes that hype up a notch, promoting alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman as no less than the future of the art. As prophecy goes, the title is spot on. This record introduced Coleman's daring approach to harmony (which he called "harmelodics"), and showed how it stretched common wisdom about consonance and dissonance, structure and openness, hard swing and tempoless contemplation. Coleman and his three agile musicians—trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins; note the absence of a harmony instrument like piano or guitar—engage in a series of squabbling conversations loosely shaped (and occasionally punctuated) by recurring melodic fragments. The ad-libbed motifs dart around corners rapidly; sometimes they bloom and then disappear immediately, sometimes they hang around and mutate as they're volleyed between instrumentalists. The most famous of these is "Lonely Woman," a sullen Coleman original that's easily his most ubiquitous tune. Following a deliberative bass opening from Haden, Coleman renders it as a study in hanging questions and unresolved mysteries. Other tunes, including "Focus On Sanity" (Coleman's choice for the album title), summon the frenetic energy and taunting fury that soon came to be associated with free jazz. Indeed, it contains maps to the terrain of the future: Historians generally mark this work, which was enshrined in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2012, as the foundation of the entire jazz avant garde movement. And though the music quickly sprouted more strident modes of expression, this album's forward-hurtling spirit still delivers on the claim of the title. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released December 17, 2000 | Rhino Atlantic

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This album belongs to a time when jazz record executives slapped broad boasts and proclamations onto their products. These usually celebrated the prowess of the artist (Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus) or the potency of the sounds (the Count Basie Orchestra's Atomic Basie). The Shape of Jazz To Come takes that hype up a notch, promoting alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman as no less than the future of the art. As prophecy goes, the title is spot on. This record introduced Coleman's daring approach to harmony (which he called "harmelodics"), and showed how it stretched common wisdom about consonance and dissonance, structure and openness, hard swing and tempoless contemplation. Coleman and his three agile musicians—trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins; note the absence of a harmony instrument like piano or guitar—engage in a series of squabbling conversations loosely shaped (and occasionally punctuated) by recurring melodic fragments. The ad-libbed motifs dart around corners rapidly; sometimes they bloom and then disappear immediately, sometimes they hang around and mutate as they're volleyed between instrumentalists. The most famous of these is "Lonely Woman," a sullen Coleman original that's easily his most ubiquitous tune. Following a deliberative bass opening from Haden, Coleman renders it as a study in hanging questions and unresolved mysteries. Other tunes, including "Focus On Sanity" (Coleman's choice for the album title), summon the frenetic energy and taunting fury that soon came to be associated with free jazz. Indeed, it contains maps to the terrain of the future: Historians generally mark this work, which was enshrined in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2012, as the foundation of the entire jazz avant garde movement. And though the music quickly sprouted more strident modes of expression, this album's forward-hurtling spirit still delivers on the claim of the title. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Contemporary

Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
This 1958 debut recording by the Ornette Coleman Quintet, which featured Coleman on his trademark white plastic alto, Don Cherry on trumpet, Billy Higgins on drums, Walter Norris on piano, and Don Payne on bass, shook up the jazz world -- particularly those musicians and critics who had entered the hard bop era with such verve and were busy using the blues as a way of creating vast solo spaces inside tight and short melody lines. Something Else!!!! is anathema to that entire idea, and must have sounded like it came from outer space at the time. First, Coleman's interest was in pitch, not "being in tune." His use of pitch could take him all over -- and outside of -- a composition, as it does on "Invisible," which begins in D flat. The intervals are standard, but the melodic component of the tune -- despite its hard bop tempo -- is, for the most part, free. But what is most compelling is evident in abundance here and on the next two tunes, "The Blessing" and "Jayne": a revitalization of the blues as it expressed itself in jazz. Coleman refurbished the blues framework, threaded it through his jazz without getting rid of its folk-like, simplistic milieu. In other words, the groove Coleman was getting here was a people's groove that only confounded intellectuals at the time. Coleman restored blues to their "classic" beginnings in African music and unhooked their harmonies. Whether the key was D flat, A, G, whatever, Coleman revisited the 17- and 25-bar blues. There are normal signatures, however, such as "Chippie" in F and in eight-bar form, and "The Disguise" is in D, but in a strange 13-bar form where the first and the last change places, altering the talking-like voice inherent in the melodic line. But the most important thing about Something Else! was that, in its angular, almost totally oppositional way, it swung and still does; like a finger-poppin' daddy on a Saturday night, this record swings from the rafters of the human heart with the most unusually gifted, emotional, and lyrical line since Bill Evans first hit the scene. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released June 23, 1987 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
This album belongs to a time when jazz record executives slapped broad boasts and proclamations onto their products. These usually celebrated the prowess of the artist (Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus) or the potency of the sounds (the Count Basie Orchestra's Atomic Basie). The Shape of Jazz To Come takes that hype up a notch, promoting alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman as no less than the future of the art. As prophecy goes, the title is spot on. This record introduced Coleman's daring approach to harmony (which he called "harmelodics"), and showed how it stretched common wisdom about consonance and dissonance, structure and openness, hard swing and tempoless contemplation. Coleman and his three agile musicians—trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins; note the absence of a harmony instrument like piano or guitar—engage in a series of squabbling conversations loosely shaped (and occasionally punctuated) by recurring melodic fragments. The ad-libbed motifs dart around corners rapidly; sometimes they bloom and then disappear immediately, sometimes they hang around and mutate as they're volleyed between instrumentalists. The most famous of these is "Lonely Woman," a sullen Coleman original that's easily his most ubiquitous tune. Following a deliberative bass opening from Haden, Coleman renders it as a study in hanging questions and unresolved mysteries. Other tunes, including "Focus On Sanity" (Coleman's choice for the album title), summon the frenetic energy and taunting fury that soon came to be associated with free jazz. Indeed, it contains maps to the terrain of the future: Historians generally mark this work, which was enshrined in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2012, as the foundation of the entire jazz avant garde movement. And though the music quickly sprouted more strident modes of expression, this album's forward-hurtling spirit still delivers on the claim of the title. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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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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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 October 18, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

The second album by Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet featuring Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, Change of the Century is every bit the equal of the monumental The Shape of Jazz to Come, showcasing a group that was growing ever more confident in its revolutionary approach and the chemistry in the bandmembers' interplay. When Coleman concentrates on melody, his main themes are catchier, and when the pieces emphasize group interaction, the improvisation is freer. Two of Coleman's most memorable classic compositions are here in their original forms -- "Ramblin'" has all the swing and swagger of the blues, and "Una Muy Bonita" is oddly disjointed, its theme stopping and starting in totally unexpected places; both secure their themes to stable, pedal-point bass figures. The more outside group improv pieces are frequently just as fascinating; "Free," for example, features a double-tongued line that races up and down in free time before giving way to the ensemble's totally spontaneous inventions. The title cut is a frantic, way-out mélange of cascading lines that nearly trip over themselves, brief stabs of notes in the lead voices, and jarringly angular intervals -- it must have infuriated purists who couldn't even stomach Coleman's catchiest tunes. Coleman was frequently disparaged for not displaying the same mastery of instrumental technique and harmonic vocabulary as his predecessors, but his aesthetic prized feeling and expression above all that anyway. Maybe that's why Change of the Century bursts with such tremendous urgency and exuberance -- Coleman was hitting his stride and finally letting out all the ideas and emotions that had previously been constrained by tradition. That vitality makes it an absolutely essential purchase and, like The Shape of Jazz to Come, some of the most brilliant work of Coleman's career. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | Fantasy Records

This 1958 debut recording by the Ornette Coleman Quintet, which featured Coleman on his trademark white plastic alto, Don Cherry on trumpet, Billy Higgins on drums, Walter Norris on piano, and Don Payne on bass, shook up the jazz world -- particularly those musicians and critics who had entered the hard bop era with such verve and were busy using the blues as a way of creating vast solo spaces inside tight and short melody lines. Something Else!!!! is anathema to that entire idea, and must have sounded like it came from outer space at the time. First, Coleman's interest was in pitch, not "being in tune." His use of pitch could take him all over -- and outside of -- a composition, as it does on "Invisible," which begins in D flat. The intervals are standard, but the melodic component of the tune -- despite its hard bop tempo -- is, for the most part, free. But what is most compelling is evident in abundance here and on the next two tunes, "The Blessing" and "Jayne": a revitalization of the blues as it expressed itself in jazz. Coleman refurbished the blues framework, threaded it through his jazz without getting rid of its folk-like, simplistic milieu. In other words, the groove Coleman was getting here was a people's groove that only confounded intellectuals at the time. Coleman restored blues to their "classic" beginnings in African music and unhooked their harmonies. Whether the key was D flat, A, G, whatever, Coleman revisited the 17- and 25-bar blues. There are normal signatures, however, such as "Chippie" in F and in eight-bar form, and "The Disguise" is in D, but in a strange 13-bar form where the first and the last change places, altering the talking-like voice inherent in the melodic line. But the most important thing about Something Else! was that, in its angular, almost totally oppositional way, it swung and still does; like a finger-poppin' daddy on a Saturday night, this record swings from the rafters of the human heart with the most unusually gifted, emotional, and lyrical line since Bill Evans first hit the scene. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released February 18, 1988 | Legacy Recordings

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Pop - Released September 28, 1982 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

When one thinks of Ornette Coleman's innovative Prime Time Band, it is of crowded ensembles played by the altoist/leader, two guitars, two electric bassists, and two drummers. Actually, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who plays enough for two musicians, is the only bassist on this date, but guitarists Charlie Ellerbee and Bern Nix, along with drummers Denardo Coleman and Calvin Weston, keep the ensembles quite exciting. None of the eight Coleman originals (which includes a tune titled "What Is the Name of That Song?") would catch on, but in this context they serve as a fine platform for Coleman's distinctive horn and often witty and free (but oddly melodic) style. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Jazz - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Like many of Ornette Coleman's Atlantic sides, The Art of the Improvisers was recorded in numerous sessions from 1959-1961 and assembled for the purpose of creating a cohesive recorded statement. Its opening track, "The Circle with the Hole in the Middle," from 1959, with the classic quartet of Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell, and Charlie Haden, is one of Coleman's recognizable pieces of music. Essentially, the band is that quartet with two very notable exceptions: The last tracks on each side feature a different bass player. On the end of side one, the great Scott LaFaro weighs in on "The Alchemy of Scott La Faro," and Jimmy Garrison weighs in on "Harlem's Manhattan" to close the album out. These last two sessions were recorded early in 1961, in January and March respectively. As an album, The Art of the Improvisers is usually undervalued when placed next to This Is Our Music or The Shape of Jazz to Come. This is a mistake in that some of Coleman's most deeply lyrical harmonic structures reside here in tracks such as "Just for You," with literally stunning intervallic interplay between him and Cherry from the middle to the end. The track also messes with standard blues form and comes up in a modal way without seemingly intending to. The set roars into "The Fifth of Beethoven," which collapses a series of flatted fifths around Haden and Cherry, and Coleman goes on a Texas blues spree in his solo, dancing all around them. "The Alchemy of Scott La Faro" must have pissed off the hard boppers like nothing else. Here is a straining sprint that the quartet takes in stride as LaFaro and Blackwell charge around the edges in frightening time signatures. Coleman and Cherry for the most part clamor around a B flat-C sharp major figure and run circles around each other in muscular fashion as LaFaro goes pizzicato to head with Coleman in the middle, turning the saxophonist's phrases into rhythmic structures which Blackwell accents as if cued. But he's not; this is invented on the spot. Coleman's deep lyricism shines through despite the tempo, and the entire thing goes out in a blaze of light. "The Legend of Bebop" is a jazz history lesson with the band working out on the front line, quoting from Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, moving through some Ellingtonian themes, and slipping around the corner to a slow, blued-out bebop before taking off in consonant solos and counterpoint. "Harlem's Manhattan," with Garrison in Haden's bass chair, begins with a quote right from Parker and Gillespie before challenging the framework of the blues and its tempos. Blackwell is a blur of the dance, his cymbal work against Garrison's punctuated accents make Coleman's and Cherry's jobs knotty and difficult, but always rooted in the melody that blues inspires. This is basically one of Coleman's most uptempo records for Atlantic, but also one of his most soulful. It deserves serious re-evaluation. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Ornette Coleman's brief tenure at Blue Note was neither as seminal as his Atlantic output nor as brazenly ambitious as his early-'70s work for Columbia and later with Prime Time. Still, the period did produce some quality music, and The Empty Foxhole is one of his most intriguing efforts. Coleman hadn't entered a recording studio in over four years when he returned -- with his ten-year-old son Denardo on drums. Coleman says in the liner notes that Denardo was ready to make a record the previous year, and he's not overestimating; Denardo's percussive coloring and shading never sounds lost or confused, and his stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas keeps up surprisingly well with his father and bassist Charlie Haden. The communal energy keeps flowing throughout the session, and the trio members play off of each other with an easygoing enthusiasm, even on the less memorable themes. Most evocative are the funereal military march of the title track, where Ornette's mournful trumpet plays off of Denardo's deliberate cadence, and "Sound Gravitation," a feature for Coleman's scratchy, percussive violin. Of the alto-driven pieces, "Good Old Days" has the fieriest flow of ideas, but he seems energized by his son's presence, and his playing is fairly exciting throughout. On balance, the music may not be among Coleman's most exceptional efforts, but there's something inspiring about the fact that The Empty Foxhole is as good as it is. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 28, 1972 | Columbia - Legacy

Here's what is known about Ornette Coleman's first recorded orchestral symphonic work (he had written others previously and had them performed but never put on tape): After hiring conductor David Measham and the London Symphony Orchestra, British musicians' union rules prohibited Coleman from using his own quartet to play on the record. As a result, he had to re-examine the work without the concerto grosso form and, to fit the work on a single LP, he had to cut many of the recurrent themes of the work. It is also known that the recording quality isn't the greatest. So what? The bottom line is this: In the 21st century, Skies of America, which was Ornette's first attempt at employing his newly developed harmolodic theory (whereby using modulation many players could solo at once using different keys), still sounds ahead of its time. Though there are 21 bands marked on the cover, this is a single unbroken work with many of the themes recurring -- either in that they had long been present in Ornette's musical iconography, or would become so. (Check the theme in "The Good Life," as it evolved from "School Work" from 1962 and became "Dancing in Your Head" in the late '70s.) Coleman himself solos beautifully in the middle of the disc, from "The Artist in America" on and off until the work's end with "Sunday in America." This is loaded music: politically, emotionally, and also spiritually. The dissonance doesn't seem so profound now, but it still rubs against the grain of Western harmonic principles in all the right ways. It's difficult to find the sense of what chord is dominant in Coleman's composition, and for that alone it's valuable. But also, it's compelling listening on a level that music such as this is not yet the cultural norm or even close to approaching its standard -- which means that it is not yet fully possible. Ornette's was an opening volley, thrown down as a gauntlet that has yet to be picked up. This is still dangerous and rewarding music. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Blue Note Records

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