Ornette COLEMAN – Change of the Century 1959

Ornette COLEMAN – Change of the Century  1959
1992 Issue.

Jazz

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.
By Steve Huey.
**
CHANGE OF THE CENTURY is a hell of an album. It was recorded in 1959, but sounds as fresh and interesting today as it did then. Ornette Coleman’s great quartet, with Billy Higgins, Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, are at the height of their powers.
In the original liner notes Ornette says, “I don’t tell the members of my group what to do. I want them to play what they hear in the piece for themselves.” What they hear in the pieces is sometimes astounding.
On “Ramblin’,” a blues of sorts, after solos by Coleman and Cherry, the listener is expecting a drum solo. Instead, Billy Higgins taps out a simple swing rhythm on what sounds like his cymbal stand. Charlie Haden then digs into some deep, deep blues that carry echoes of Appalachian music, rockabilly, and who knows what else. It’s unearthly.
The absence of a piano allows the listener to hear every bass note, every drum fill, and they’re all worth hearing. In “Free,” Don Cherry’s pocket trumpet outlines wild shapes and ideas. And in “Face of the Bass,” Ornette’s plastic alto sax solo bypasses the mind and becomes a visceral experience. The music is truly fresh.
**
Change of the Century, Ornette’s 4th album is a work of stunning brilliance. Any doubts that because it is sandwiched between the definitive classic The Shape Of Jazz To Come & the revolutionary Free Jazz that it would be somewhat lesser can be thrown right out. This is a great a jazz album as any ever made & amongst the greatest of any music, seriously all the labels, genre-specificness & niche marketing should be thrown right out, like OC fan Captain Beefheart meant when he said “Lick my decals off, baby!”, I’m sure Ornette would agree. 1st of all there is the striking stark portrait of the man himself by Lee Friedlander to get yr attention, I’ve seen a book full of her photography & it’s good stuff [note the similar style on Miles Davis’ Greatest Hits lp cover of the late 60s]. Then there are the liner notes explaining the philosophy driving the music, Ornette believes deeply in what his group were doing [I should now mention that drummer Billy Higgins recently died & a sad shame it is, also the great Don Cherry has been gone since 1995], the bold titles of the albums were not an exercise to build an ego but just great confidence in the power of the music. Now, Ramblin’ which opens the album is something that should be listened to every day to wake you up & get you in the mood for lifeliving, very catchy & great playing from all members, pure genius. Free is the name of the next track & it’s worth noting this is preceding the term ‘free jazz’ slightly, the intro of it really superb, a streaming sea of sound & then of course there is a lot of free group improvisation. The Face Of The Bass highlights the talents of Charlie Haden [& rightly so!], daring to give him an extended solo before the whole band jumps in again. Una Muy Bonita is an overwhelmingly joyous tune but never embarrassingly so, another classic. The only tune to not grab you immediately & predict the more out there abrasiveness of the free jazz scene is the title track which closes the lp, it is also the shortest track here. The other songs are top notch too of course, particularly Forerunner. Like Ornette says in the liner notes, music can’t be analysed too much or it loses what makes it great in the 1st place, so all I can say is it’s something I highly recommend & yr ears will thank you for it. P.S. [3 months after initial write-up]: THIS IS THE PINNACLE, IT DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!! An absolute classic that can be played every day & is always compelling. That’s not to say there’s not a whole lot more worth checking out, the electric Body Meta & semi-orchestral Chappaqua Suite are brilliant too. Start here though.
By Funkmeister.
**
Says Ornette in the liner notes: “I say, there is no single way to play jazz. Some of the comments made about my music make me realize though that modern jazz, once so daring and revolutionary, has become, in many respects, a rather settled and conventional thing.” Just as bop had befuddled and angered critics to ask such narrow minded questions as, “where is the melody?”, the music of Ornette Coleman confused and angered the majority of critics. But the muscicians were listening. Even Coleman’s seminal “Free Jazz” sounds relatively tame when compared to the avante garde of the middle to late 60’s, but it can be argued much of that music, good and bad, could never have come about without the adavnces of Ornette Coleman. A genius on par with names like: Ellington, Coltrane, Parker, jazz is still wrestling with his revolution. His lack of traditional structures, total absence of chorded instruments (i.e. piano, guitar), and even playing his plastic alto were all part of his revolution. But lets focus on what matters, this album is a delight from beginning to end. Ornette is in top form thoughout, check out his furious solo on “Forerunner”. Bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins move with fluidity and cohesiveness through out. Donald Cherry on the pocket trumpet, while not impressive to me, is essential to the group for his willingness to take chances. To these ears this music swings as hard as any, and needs to be in any serious collection of jazz recordings, not because it is revoloutionary, but because it is good!
By Jazzfanmn.
**
Ornette Coleman- (Alto Sax);
Don Cherry- (Pocket Trumpet);
Charlie Haden- (Bass);
Billy Higgins- (Drums).
**
01. Ramblin’ 6:39
02. Free 6:24
03. The Face of the Bass 6:59
04. Forerunner 5:16
05. Bird Food 5:31
06. Una Muy Bonita 6:02
07. Change of the Century 4:41
**


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