Thursday, 9 March 2017

Ornette Coleman, freedom, Biafra

(Born 9 March 1930, Fort Worth, Texas, US)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

TODAY IS the 87th birthday of Ornette Coleman. Alto saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist, composer, one of the very top inventive jazz artists of all time – a leading exponent of the avant-garde/free jazz movement, beginning late 1950s/early 1960s, when his varying working quartets (personnel: Coleman, alto saxophone [tenor saxophone on Ornette on Tenor only], Don Cherry, cornet/trumpet/pocket trumpet; Charlie Haden/Scott LaFaro/Red Mitchell/Percy Heath/Jimmy Garrison/Don Payne, bass; Billy Higgins/Ed Blackwell/Shelly Manne, drums) and quintet (Something Else!!!! only, with Walter Norris on piano) record seven classic albums (Something Else!!!! [1958], Tomorrow is the Question [1959], The Shape of Jazz to Come [1959], Change of the Century [1959], This is our Music [1960], Ornette! [1961], Ornette on Tenor [1961]), and an eighth, this time recorded by an octet (Coleman, alto saxophone; Cherry, pocket trumpet; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet; Haden, bass; LaFaro, bass; Blackwell, drums; Higgins, drums), pertinently titled Free Jazz (1960).


In this revolutionary epoch in which stretches of peoples and nations across the globe but especially in the African World have risen against centuries of pan-European conquest, occupation and subjugation, Coleman’s music has consistently offered an infectiously gripping optimism for freedom.  As the world keenly watches the march of the strikingly innovative freedom movement of the people of Biafra in southwestcentral Africa from bludgeoning genocide perpetrated against them presently by Britain and Nigeria, two compositions from the Coleman repertoire couldn’t be more appropriate to capture the immense transformational possibilities that success in Biafra will have for constituent peoples in the region and elsewhere in Africa: “Turnaround” (February 1959) and “Change of the century” (October 1959).
(Ornette Coleman Quartet, “Turnaround” [personnel: Coleman, alto saxophone; Don Cherry, trumpet; Red Mitchell, bass; Shelly Manne, drums; recorded: Contemporary’s Studio, Los Angeles, US, 23 February 1959])
(Ornette Coleman Quartet, “Change of the century” [personnel: Coleman, alto saxophone; Don Cherry, pocket trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; recorded: Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California, US, 8 October 1959])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

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