Listening with today's ears it is sometimes hard to understand how controversial alto saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman's music was during the first few years of his career. It's a testament to his perseverance and vision that was once radical has by now been so thoroughly absorbed into the jazz mainstream that it hardly raises an eyebrow. To say that Coleman scuffled before his break is an understatement: a brutal baptism by fire in Texas Rhythm and Blues bands and then slowly gathering like minded musicians in Los Angeles. But gather them he did, and attracted enough notoriety to be offered an album deal by the small Los Angels based label Contemporary Records. This is Ornette Coleman's first album, and he is accompanied by a couple of musicians that would play with him for much of his career, Don Cherry on trumpet and Billy Higgins on drums. Joining them are Don Payne on bass and Walter Norris on piano, one of the few times in Coleman's career that he would play with a pianist. The music definitely comes out of the bebop/hard bop mold with Coleman's beautifully tart and organic saxophone tone sounding like the direct descendant of Charlie Parker. When Will The Blues Leave" is classic Coleman with deeply yearning feel that is haunting and very memorable. Invisible" and The Sphinx" are fascinating clues to the future direction Coleman's music would take, with extrapolations of raw saxophone and punches of sharp trumpet rotating around ever shifting drums. The only person who seems out of place is Norris, but he keeps his cool through the album, comping unobtrusively and occasionally soloing. This is a transitional album, but a very enjoyable one. All of the pieces that Coleman would fit together for his classic Atlantic Records recordings are begging to fall into place, and the music even at this early date sounds fresh and exploratory.
This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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