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8 May 2011

Ornette Coleman - 'Dancing in Your Head' (Horizon/A&M)

Fast-forwarding about a decade from Stockholm, we find Ornette deep in the orgasmic revery of jazz-rock fusion. Dancing in Your Head is 85% a long jam with a jazz-rock band and 15% a jam with the Master Musicians of Joujouka. And a "jam" indeed is 'Theme from a Symphony variation one', as the thunderous blasts of discordant guitars, bass spurts, and Shannon Jackson (I assume the Ronald has not yet been added to his name) pounding away in a Beefheartian, yet swinging style. There's a chorus, a simple melody that the band falls back into at times, but the holes only appear in this dense fog because everyone is playing the same thing. And when the verses are in effect, we get every type of post-Django guitar rivulets, often piled on top of the other guitar's dirty palm-muting. Both guitarists are credited as 'lead' guitars - Bern Nix and Charlie Ellerbee - and there's a genius to it, a self-consuming inward looking thrash that has a primitive monotony that outlasts most other efforts of its time. The second variation, on side two, begins with a tease of jazz guitar glory before getting back into the tune that by this point has bored into my brain. Throughout the eleven minutes of the second variation we're occasionally teased with fuzz pedals, bursts of rock riffage, and Coleman's alto skronk, but it's always returns to the central theme. It's maximal minimalism, and I can't help but think that the parts where the guitars and saxes are fighting to out-ascend each other to the next note is total Zoot Horn Rollo. 'Midnight Sunrise' is recorded in Morocco and finds Ornette's alto accentuated by clarinet, Moroccan reeds and percussion. I don't think it's a great title, or only half-great, because this is dark music of the night with nothing on the horizon. Despite the exploratory gusts of air, the percussion swarms around everything and encloses it, and I'm left wishing there was more than a 4-and-a-half minute document of Ornette's trip to Africa. Promo copy.

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