Setting out to review this album I`m reminded of a quotation attributed to Laurie Anderson, "Writing about music is like trying to explain architecture by dancing." As there are no track samples available, I'll assume you like free jazz or are at least interested enough to acquaint yourself with the genre.
This was the recording the Coleman quartet made a month after the landmark "Free Jazz" album, but curiously doesn't attract as much attention as "This is Our Music" or "Change of the Century" - it should, as Scott LaFaro took over from Charlie Haden as bassist with, I think, interesting results. LaFaro has a wonderful singing, driving and rhapsodic style which works well with the vocal instruments, indeed the thing about the Coleman quartet was the way everyone in the group seemed to play melodically without the conventional separation of rhythm section and front line; that's not to say that Haden was in any way less sensitive, I just think its more noticeable with LaFaro on board; perhaps it was just the effect of a new personality in the group; at any rate LaFaro solos at the drop of a hat and punctuates readily throughout the album as if he'd been with the group for years and the band sounds comfortable with the set-up.
There were originally four tracks on the LP; a bonus track "Proof Readers" has been added for this re-mastered CD which has a playing time of 54 mins.
Everyone takes extended solos across the album; Lafaro most notably on the first -and longest - track ""W.R.U." and a bowed solo at the start of "C.&D." Coleman takes the longest solos with his characteristic bluesy, folksy phrasing and elastic lines; Cherry's stuttering, smeared solos are a little more subdued than usual on this album; he contributes a muted cornet solo on "C.&D." and his solos are generally shorter than Coleman's. "T.&T." begins with and features Blackwell, who isn't a showy drummer but seems to propel the band at all times with a controlled shuffle; his solo patterns have a melodic quality about them, edging the music along with a pulsing forward motion and persuasive cymbal work.
This is certainly an album worth your time if you are a fan of Coleman's music, if you are uncertain where to begin start with "This is Our Music", "Change of the Century" or "Art of the Improvisers", a useful cross-section of un-issued tracks from 1959-61, but don`t dismiss "Ornette!"; for the initiated this is a classic album with much to commend it.
on 30 December 2001
ORNETTE COLEMAN is amongst the greatest & underrated artists in history. Choosing a greatest hits set from his vast & wide-ranging catalogue is a hard task so Ken Burns' people should be praised for that if nothing else, I still don't agree w/ him stamping his name all over it & that of the other jazz greats, & for all the complaints about the doco's biases & Wynton Marsalis' "doodoodadadoo oh man that was gumbo" pointlessness, the fact that this collection appears in the racks @ yr local cd shop is something good [oh but there's always @ least 10 Coltrane titles]. Anyway, here you have a good introduction to the master's work, including the favourites Lonely Woman & Ramblin', the legendary Free Jazz First Take, a minimal European Echoes live in Sweden [I was more fmailiar w/ the electric quintet version on Body Meta, a great lp not represented here though its sister Dancing In Yr Head thankfully is] & more. The photos are well-chosen & liner notes are decent enough. Analysis aside, there's 76 minutes of life-affirming brilliant music here that any smart being should dig. Props to the players: Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, Charles Moffet, Eric Dolphy, Jamalaadeen Tacuma etc.