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3 May 2011

Ornette Coleman - 'Change of the Century' (Atlantic)

Change of the Century (another beautifully modest title) is go #2 for this quartet. Ornette ventures out with some call-and-response bluesy licks in 'Ramblin', almost like he's trying to prove he's linked to some soul. Cherry, still billed as the formal Donald here, steps back a bit and lets Ornette run here, but it feels a bit like a walk through the motions. Haden sounds somewhat more pronounced here, though in terms of production it's exactly like the first one. 'The Face of the Bass', despite the stupid name, is his time to shine but his punchy repetition over Higgins' jitteryjattery plinks at the end of 'Ramblin' is kinda nice too. But hey, I almost skipped track 2 which is called, yes, 'Free'. Ornette's liner notes claim that this is spontaneously improvised and perhaps so; it sure begins with a hell of a run, where you can practically hear the shimmery plastic of his alto breaking apart. Starts and stops, hesitations - this may be free but it's certainly anticipated by each of them, and the somewhat lumbering parts are my favourite bits. Haden knows how to ramp up the momentum and his tonal choices give Coleman room to run. Still not enough Cherry here, but he gets a few opportunities as the piece progresses and extensively on side two. Despite the loose feel to these runs, the music never gets too claustrophobic; this is probably somewhat due to the face that Coleman and Cherry rarely play at the same time, so it ends up with a much more "solo" type feel, just extended over two LP sides. There's some really nice cornet trilling on 'Bird Food' and the bouncing never really stops. The strongest TUNE on the record is 'Una Muy Bonita', which is kinda infectious and fun, and then the closing cut is probably the most freewheeling and expansive, but it wears out its welcome a bit. It is probably the most lively and spirited interplay we get between Cherry and Coleman, even if they are mostly darting around the same melody. It's a record of transition, but I certainly find it a lot more listenable than Free Jazz, (which of course someone had to go and make, and that's a good thing).

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