Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!! - JazzWax

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June 16, 2011


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In an interview with Gordon Jack, Herb Geller related that "Ornette came to my house once because he wanted to have his music corrected. He showed me his tunes, and they were a catastrophe, because the bar lines were in the wrong place and there were no chord symbols. He took his saxophone out, and I notated what he played. I asked him what chord he was using, and he blew the arpeggio of a G chord thinking it was a B minor....I liked Ornette as a person....some of his tunes have haunting melodies..."

keith hedger

I remember when the Atlantic box came out several years ago and re-emerging myself in a lot of those quartet recordings. I kept thinking "this stuff is just not that strange sounding..." That is, I didn't fail to realize the significance of the music or its newness, but I guess listening to it in the 90s, I just couldn't be affected by it the way someone in the 50s would. I can hear the 'outness' (though I like it) in most of the larger ensemble things, and certainly Prime Time (which I really dig), but the quartet sounds very progressive, always musical, and totally non-alienating to me. Interesting.

T.R. Hummer

It's odd to call Coleman a "west coaster" when he was in fact from Texas--even within your article Hentoff's quote makes this very clear--a region that has produced many musicians. His early experience in R&B in that part of the world was deeply formative for his style. You say those who think of him as an "east coaster" are mistaken; you're making a similar mistake.

Denis Ouellet

After more than fifty years this album surprisingly still sounds fresh.I didn't feel it was so far out with that great rhythm section. Very enjoyable.
Still have that LP.

Ed Leimbacher

Ornette has always been something else, from long before he first left Texas (with shards of the Blues in his hip pocket), right up until he changed the shape of the century and fought free of Jazz into the crimped sphere of Harmolodics and beyond. In concert a couple of years ago, he looked like a wizened Black Irish leprechaun, wrapped in a rainbow suit and a golden grin, his banshee wail become the majestic cry of the World.


I love this album, too. Probably my favorite Ornette album,along with the Hillcrest recordings. Filled with 'joie de vivre'! It's also uncanny how he and Don Cherry played so together (in unison).

T.K. Tortch

Picked up my first Ornette album when I was in college in the late '80's; I remember being surprised to see the recording date as sometime in '59. There was a lot going on all at once in the jazz world then. IIRC, Cecil Taylor's fist couple of albums were waxed before 1960, as well.


Curious. Not a single adjective referring to Coleman means that he knows how to play well.

Jery Rowan

Never cared much for his playing. Never will. Even his concept of "unison" with Cherry is so not together.

But great rhythm section on the album -- which, sadly, make his own inadequacies stand out even more.

However, one man’s concept of brilliance is another man’s polka.


"Something Else!!!!" is free-bop at its finest. -- There is another fascinating LP (it was mentioned above), recorded and released in 1958, under the leadership of Cecil Taylor, with John Coltrane, Kenny Dorham, Chuck Israels & Louis Hayes, which is entitled Hard Driving Jazz. -- Considering the different styles of the participants on this date, one would think 'this can't possibly work out' ... But it did brilliantly.

I personally love those mixed dates, meaning different generations of improvisors working together. -- Let's take the timeless recording session from June 6, 1945, where swing veterans like Teddy Wilson and Red Norvo clashed with Bird & Diz in the studio, and nevertheless produced some of the most exciting sounds in the history of jazz.


P.S. -- The link didn't get through.

Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Driving-Jazz-Cecil-Taylor/dp/B000AN025A

Keith Henry Brown

I saw Mr. Coleman several months ago at Sonny Rollins' birthday concert. It was strange to witness both men on the stage along with trumpeter Roy Hargrove. The two men's styles are so madly different that it felt like a novelty act.

"Something else!" Is definitely one of the finest Coleman records, the one I usually recommended for curious folks wanting a sampling of the master's gifts (or maybe the strangely compelling "compilation" from The Ken Burns' "Jazz" series). My personal favorites are "This Is Our Music", "Th Shape Of Jazz To Come", and "Town Hall".

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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