Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ornette Coleman – Virgin Beauty (Portrait, 1991)
Ornette Coleman – Love Call (Blue Note, 1968)

These are two vastly different releases from Ornette Coleman. The first is an electric record with his Prime Time ensemble, and has a fond place in the heart of musically adventurous Deadheads worldwide for the appearance of Jerry Garcia on three cuts. The music is quite complex, combining melody and harmony in Coleman’s “Harmolodic” concept of free jazz.

Although complex, the music is highly enjoyable – Ornette’s keening, yearning alto swoops and dices through a thicket of two electric guitars (three when Garcia sits in) plus electric bass and percussion. There is a palpable sense of adventure and unexpectedness with this recording, and it’s more joyful and playful than some of Coleman’s other recordings. This would make a great starter disc for any rock fan who has heard of Ornette, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Love Call comes from before Ornette's Prime Time era, and consists primarily of outtakes from his 1968 Blue Note recording New York Is Now. On this record, Ornette has an acoustic super-group of Dewey Redman on tenor saxophone, and ex Coltrane band members Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Ornette also adds trumpet to his alto saxophone on three selections. Redman and Coleman always seem to have an affinity for each other when they play together, coming from a similar Texas background and set of influences. The music is very raw, especially when Coleman switches from his primary alto saxophone to trumpet but it fascinating to hear Ornette and Redman play with a driving rhythm section like Garrison and Jones.

Rating: (both records) 8

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