Monday, October 31, 2011

A Clarification and Some Further Thoughts About Ornette & Sonny

Interestingly, Ethan Iverson thinks I'm square because I wrote that Ornette Coleman's solo on "Sonnymoon for Two" (on Sonny Rollins's Road Shows Vol. 2 album) contains some corny blues licks.  I thought I was critiquing Coleman for being conservative!  I'd rather Coleman had played something along the lines of this:

(Just kidding... but only barely!)  Corniness is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder, but let there be no doubt that Ornette Coleman is one of the greatest living blues players (read more about it in Lewis Porter's 1994 article or check out the saxophonist's blistering 1958 solo on "Ramblin'" from the Hillcrest Club tapes with Paul Bley).  I just think he didn't have time to find his groove at Carnegie Hall, which isn't surprising—how would you feel, making a guest appearance as a sideman at someone else's Carnegie Hall birthday concert, and walking on stage midway through a song to play with a rhythm section you're not accustomed to?

I wonder whether Coleman's relatively conservative solo at the Carnegie Hall concert (excluding the soulful opening passage which Francis Davis unfairly calls a squeaky reed in the liner notes!) might actually have been the result of the altoist's attempt to adapt—very slightly—to the relatively straight-ahead ensemble.  I'd rather he'd stayed in his comfort zone and let the chips fall where they may.

In my view, some of the most fascinating collaborations between "inside" and "outside" players have been those in which neither compromised.  Perhaps the most famous example is the notorious Cecil Taylor—Mary Lou Williams concert.  But, interestingly, another instance occurred when Rollins himself, during his most experimental phase, recorded with Coleman Hawkins in 1963 (compare Hawkins's opening solo with Rollins's at 5:35):

No comments:

Post a Comment