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Music Review: Ornette Coleman – Something Else!!!!

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The Concord Music Group has released six new titles in their ongoing Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series. As with all the titles in the series, they have been enhanced by 24 bit remastering, original and new liner notes, plus many come with bonus tracks.

Concord has also continued its policy of reissuing original studio and live albums, rather than compilation albums. This policy has enabled them to resurrect some of the most innovative, creative, and influential albums in jazz history. Artists who are the subject of this latest batch of reissues are Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderly with Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass, the Bill Evans Trio, and the subject of this review, Ornette Coleman.

Something Else!!! was Ornette Coleman’s debut as a band leader. Supporting his alto saxophone playing were trumpeter Don Cherry, pianist Walter Norris, bassist Don Payne, and drummer Billy Higgins.

During the 1960s he became a leading proponent of the free jazz movement, which left traditional song structures and melodies behind. His music would be created outside of those confines. His albums for the Contemporary label found him in the formative stages of his career, as basic song structures are still apparent, yet at times he will break away from those confines, which looked ahead to the most innovative period of his career.

Ornette Coleman is an acquired taste and is not for everybody and so it is with Something Else!!!! He and trumpeter Don Cherry had begun using their instruments to move music and its sounds closer to the expressive capabilities of the human voice. The sounds they produce are some of the rawest, dissonant, eclectic, and challenging to the human ear in the history of jazz up until that point in time, and that was only the beginning.

“Invisible” and “The Sphinx” are the first and last tracks and they demonstrate what would become his recognizable sound and style of the future. The only reason they do not completely break free is the inclusion of Norris’ piano into the mix as it adheres to traditional melody structures, which run counterpoint to Coleman’s and Cherry’s non- structured excursions. Coleman’s use of a piano quickly disappeared from his various bands for almost four decades, as it was not needed.

The other seven tracks meander in and out of melody and structure. “The Disguise,” “Alpha,” and “When Will The Blues Leave” were all blues based tunes that Coleman breaks down into their various parts and then re-constructs them into jazz interpretations and excursions. “The Blessing,” “Jayne,” and “Chippie,” begin as jazz compositions and for the most part are kept within those confines.

Ornette Coleman is now 81 years old and remains one of the few jazz masters still alive and performing. Something Else!!!! catches him at the beginning of his career and jazz music at a transition point.

 

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