Ornette COLEMAN Quartet – Ornette 1961

Ornette COLEMAN Quartet – Ornette 1961
2004 Issue.


Ornette Coleman was definitely on a winning streak during his prolific time with Atlantic Records from 1959-1962. His fifth album for the label, simply titled “Ornette!”, continued his explorations into the outer realms of free improvisation and tight musical interplay. Most importantly, the “Ornette!” album was recorded shortly after the monumental and groundbreaking “Free Jazz” session from December 1960.
Joining Coleman on this album is his long-time sideman and trumpeter Don Cherry along with a new rhythm section of drummer Ed Blackwell (who replaced Billy Higgins) and Scott LaFaro (who took over for Charlie Haden). Although this album is somewhat overshadowed by the more successful “Shape Of Jazz To Come” as well as the aforementioned “Free Jazz”, “Ornette!” is still a solid effort that is just as exciting and strong as its predecessors.
Standouts include the mammoth 16-minute “W.R.U.”, Ed Blackwell’s drum feature “T&T”, LaFaro’s eeire bowed bass solo in “C&D” and Coleman’s extended alto workout on “R.P.D.D.” The newly reissued CD also features an excellent bonus track, “Proof Readers” which was recorded during the same sessions as this album.
The remastering on this CD presents the album in stunning sound quality and sounds as if your standing in the room with the musicians as they are playing the music.
Additionally, the CD booklet includes the original LP liner notes from Gunther Schuller as well as new notes from noted Jazz critic Nat Hentoff.
With that said, “Ornette!” is another fine album in Ornette Coleman’s varied catalog. There’s great playing and awesome improvisation here and is full of energy and excitement.

Footnote: The complete music from the January 1961 session that this album was taken from can be heard on the boxed set “Beauty Is A Rare Thing: The Complete Atlantic Recordings”, a full 74 minutes of music recorded at this one session.
By  Louie Bourland.
Recorded a month and ten days after his landmark “Free Jazz”, Ornette Coleman’s “Ornette!” finds the leader on fire– coming off such a huge acheivement, his working quartet (now consisting of trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Ed Blackwell) entered the studio to record four new compositions. Remarkably, this album seems to be a big step forward in performance from his earlier records. At a minimum, Don Cherry, who always seemed a bit fragile, is suddenly much more powerful and confident as a performer– it could be a tour he conducted the summer before in Europe, or his first recording session as a (co) leader (the as-of-then unreleased “The Avant-Garde” with John Coltrane), or soemthing else, but Cherry playing is brilliant throughout, matching Coleman’s. Likewise, Ed Blackwell seems fully integrated in the quartet and his signature sound, slightly absent on “This is Our Music” (his first recording with Coleman) and “Free Jazz”, is fully present– the New Orleans marching band feel he brings to the best of his work is prevelent throughout. Look no further than “T. & T.”, a drum feature where Blackwell plays a marching beat and an amazingly patient and subtle solo to see a good example of his stellar perforamnce. And certainly, Coleman, for someone so pioneering and on the edge, plays with extraordinary confidence and skill. But the last piece of the puzzle is Scott LaFaro.

No slight against Charlie Haden, he’s a fantastic bass player and perhaps more inventive than LaFaro, but LaFaro was a virtuoso performer of extraordinary ability, endurance, speed, and strength. His work throughout is nothing short of amazing, be it arco (his beautiful solo on “C. & D.”) or pizzicato (the jaw-dropping one on “W.R.U.”– agile and exciting and really beyond words).

Also of note, and different from Coleman’s earlier records– all the cuts barring drum feature “T. & T.” (where no one but Blackwell solos) are extended and really give lots of room for the players to stretch and cut loose. As a result, solos by all four are well developed and overflowing with ideas.

The bonus track on this album, “Proof Readers”, recorded at the same session, was likely left off because of length of record, not because of merit. The piece is notable certainly for featuring among the best interaction between Coleman and Blackwell– the two play with a near psychic level of interaction, Coleman twists and turns during his extended solo and Blackwell (and for that matter LaFaro) are right there offering encouragement. In many ways, its quite unfortunate it didn’t end up on the album.

With LaFaro’s death later in 1961, this was not an effort that would ever be repeated, but certainly its a record deserving attention. Those new to Coleman’s work should look to “The Shape of Jazz to Come” first, but “Ornette!”, finally in print after being out for quite a while, is a worthy second place to look. Highly recommended.
By Michael Stack.
Originally issued in 1961 on Atlantic Records, ORNETTE! (recorded shortly after the revolutionary FREE JAZZ album) finds Ornette Coleman and company at the peak of their powers. Trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Ed Blackwell are on board–both would continue playing with Coleman off and on for decades to come–but the wild card here is the legendary bassist Scott LaFaro, who earned his reputation with the equally innovative (albeit quieter) Bill Evans Trio, here taking the place of Coleman’s then-regular bassist Charlie Haden. LaFaro’s style is more hard-driving (in the traditional, hard-bop sense) than Haden’s warm, buoyant approach, inspiring the soloists to feverish heights. Though considered very “avant-garde” at the time, Coleman’s solos crackle with the essence of the blues, while Cherry plays with a brassy, rippling tone, and Blackwell’s crisp, propulsive drumming is rich with rhythmic echoes of New Orleans and the Caribbean. Vibrant and immediate, ORNETTE! is a classic in Coleman’s voluminous recorded history.
Recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, New York, New York on January 31, 1961. Originally released on Atlantic.
Ornette Coleman- (Alto Sax);
Don Cherry- (Pocket Trumpet);
Scott LaFaro- (Bass);
Ed Blackwell- (Drums).
01. W.R.U.  16:25
02. T & T  4:35
03. C. & D.  13:10
04. R.P.D.D.  9:38
05. Proof Readers #  10:25

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