Jazz

Like Nothing Else

06 SEP 11 CHRIS SLAWECKI

Ornette Coleman was so correct about the future direction of music, while history often recalls his legend as unconventional or controversial, to modern ears with the benefit of five decades hindsight, his music sometimes sounds more inside than outside the jazz of his contemporaries. Something Else!!!! The Music Of Ornette Coleman (1958, Contemporary, now available as part of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series) provides a good example. It brings together two famous tonal explorers -- Don Cherry on pocket trumpet with Coleman on alto and soprano sax -- in an ensemble that's a bop quintet in structure if not always execution.

Coleman rips open "The Disguise" to reveal the knife-edge of his new thing sheathed in current jazz style, and drives "The Sphinx" as hard and fast as a Texas jackrabbit. Cherry's pocket trumpet brings a quaint, traditional sound to everything he plays, like "The Blessing" (later recorded by Pat Metheny), "Jayne," and the wobbly and Monk-like "When Will The Blues Leave?," where Cherry sounds more like Clark Terry shredding the blues. Even if my ears can't fully grasp the harmonic innovations of Coleman's music, they can still recognize the spirit, structure, and moaning tones of the blues, and Something Else!!!! mines thick flowing rivers of blues gold.

The album also marked Coleman's recording debut as a leader. He released one more album for Contemporary, the quartet date Tomorrow Is The Question about a year later, to write two of the earliest chapters in his historic recording career.