Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 13 October 2011
Free jazz this ain't. Ornette was later to release a notorious record bluntly entitled Free Jazz, but he was as much a composer as an improviser, exemplified to the full on this wonderful third album from 1959.
I was lucky enough to see Ornette on a rare visit to the UK in the `80s, when he tore the place apart with a blistering set, backed by a tight, loud band, but still playing up a storm on his preferred 'toy sax'. That was later...
This rather lovely sextet of numbers is played with an emphasis on both melody and extemporisation, the opening track Lonely Woman perhaps one of the most haunting compositions in all post-war jazz. Ornette on alto sax and the late Don Cherry on cornet duet on this knotty tune, with Charlie Haden`s bass and drummer Billy Higgins - what a line-up - blending and complementing them perfectly. It's a fine way to begin this diverse album, followed as it is by the frenetic, straining-at-the-leash number Eventually, all staccato phrases and jumpy licks - a hint of the urgency in some of Ornette's later work.
Next track, Peace (not the Horace Silver tune) is an impressionistic nine-minute mid-tempo stroll that is in its way peaceful, but refuses to get too complacent, with a lengthy, fascinatingly exploratory solo early on from Ornette followed by a similarly lyrical solo by Cherry, both backed by Haden's sensitive, soulful bass lines and aptly reserved support from Higgins. Haden's oh-so-brief solo near the end is a momentary thing of simple beauty.
The other three tracks are just as riveting, this being music with a lot going on, plenty to listen to. Focus On Sanity starts with pressing urgency, before giving way to a note-bending bass odyssey courtesy of Haden before the others return to the fold and it all livens up again. You can almost hear Ornette crying out "I`m late, I'm late!"
Congeniality is warm and humorous, befitting its title. A lovely track.
Chronology is a faster workout to round off the album, with terrific work from all concerned.
This portentously titled album was and is a beacon of what we call modern jazz, but much more than that it is packed with great music played with joy, passion, and an intelligence that never sacrifices a certain southern swing - Ornette was a Texan, after all - and will always be one to return to with affection and a very good feeling indeed.
Ornette & co made fascinating shapes.