January 30, 2015

Ornette Coleman - At The Golden Circle (1965)

I was having a conversation with my dad, also a jazz fan, when he asked, "Man I wish there was an album where we heard Ornette play a little more normal, you know, like how Coltrane, Pharoah, and Anthony Braxton all did." Dad, when you hear Ornette play on his Atlantic albums it's as normal as he's going to get, it's just who he is, like Dolphy to the extreme. The Blue Note Golden Circle albums are probably the best if you want to look at him like that since there's no Don Cherry to obscure your vision. Don't get me wrong, Don Cherry and Ornette together are amazing, but it is nice to hear Ornette just go on and on. His rhythm duo is different again, but also exceptional, which is important since you'll be hearing a lot of them with only one saxophonist and no piano. Charles Moffett, a high school classmate of Ornette (and Prince Lasha, but that's another story), is very loose, giving all angles of drumming some thought when Ornette drops out. When Ornette is playing, he does an awesome job pushing the music forward with that ride cymbal and snare. That's an important role considering Ornette will never stay in the same place longer than 2 bars. You'll hear him play on a melody, then drop it, go into question mark freeness, then pick up another half-melody. Ornette's free jazz is possibly the greatest mystery of the 20th Century; nobody else could do it with the same funniness, minimalism, and still incorporate that false sense of rhythm and melody (Ayler and Taylor are the closest I've seen). It's hard to talk about jazz when you know no music theory, but this album moves along and will blow by you before you know what the hell happened. And yes I'll include Volume 2, the one where Ornette plays violin and trumpet, which is bullshit in my opinion, if you want to hear him play trumpet listen to Jackie McLean's New And Old Gospel. And when he doesn't play those instruments I still think Volume 1 is the stronger record--hence the better rip quality.


At The Golden Circle