Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ornette Coleman - The Complete Science Ficiton Sessions (Columbia 1971, 2000)

This is a fascinating two disc set that collects music that the great saxophonist Ornette Coleman recorded in a concentrated session in September of 1971. The music was eventually released on the albums Science Fiction and Broken Shadows. Coleman brought together former colleagues like bassist Charlie Haden, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, drummers Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell and trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford. These musicians and some other special guests explore the length and breadth of Coleman's vision of small group music at that time. Some of the more experimental tracks included here feature vocalists, like the soaringly beautiful voice of Asha Puthil who fits in almost like another reed player as she soars around the music on "What Reason Could I Give" and "All My Life." Poet David Henderson's slow and distorted recitation and an uncredited crying baby lend their talent to "Science Fiction" which is one of the strangest of all Coleman performances. Bluesman Webster Armstrong joins the music to sing "Good Girl Blues" and ground it it the rhythm and blues firmament. But ultimately, the focus of the music is on the instrumentalists, and the approach they take to improvising on Coleman's compositions. The playing of the musicians is truly thrilling and exciting. Much of the music seems rooted in the blues, but has evolved to far as to be almost unrecognizable as such. Performances like "Civilization Day," "Law Years" and "School Work" are some of the most exciting and invigorating music he has ever produced. The way that the musicians are able to improvise collectively is very impressive. The music never sounds forced or lost and remains accessible no matter how far out it goes. For some reason, these sessions seem to be forgotten when people talk about Coleman's finest work, and I think that's a shame. There is a lot of music on these two discs that is of very high quality.
Complete Science Fiction Sessions - amazon.com

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