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7 May 2011

The Ornette Coleman Trio - 'At the "Golden Circle" Stockholm volume one' (Blue Note)

This is the record on which the Izenzon/Moffett trio's reputation rests, for me (and I will spell their names correctly in this writeup, as this record's sleeve uses the correct spelling unlike Town Hall 1962, which I only just realised butchers it - great job, ESP proofreaders!). I actually have never heard volume two of this concert, and never remember to look for it, which is strange given how much I love volume one. Part of the reason is that I was surprised by this record. My father gave me this LP, from his very small collection of jazz records, representing his brief flirtation with avant-garde jazz in the late 60's which he quickly lost interest in. Actually, I think this might be have been the only record to remain, though he told me that he had both volumes of The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra and swore they were upstairs (they weren't; what a tease!). Anyway, I took this somewhat reluctantly, during the peak of my interest in skronky out-jazz, figuring it couldn't be that good because the recording date was early and Blue Note wasn't a label I thought of as being representative of free jazz. So what a surprise to hear a hot-shit band disassembling the ghost of bop, propelling with energy and that agile, wispy tone of Coleman. The record starts with a spoken introduction in Swedish, after Izenzon tunes up and we hear Moffett adjusting his hi-hat - which makes me now realise that as much I love this trio, it's only these two live recordings I know by them. (I suppose I should start looking for copies of the Chappaqua Suite). Anyway, 'Faces and Places' quickly explodes, with Moffett drilling his ride cymbal throughout, propelling along Ornette's creaky explorations. Again, Izenzon is a little hard to hear, which is partially cause of this weird phasing effect caused by the ride cymbal, which I quite like - it gives the whole track a semi-metallic feel, a little bit like industrial music. It occasionally feels familiar, like quotations of Charlie Parker melodies, but then rips the rug from under itself as it goes along. 'European Echoes' begins with an almost intentionally crude pattern of toots and bleats from Coleman, his technique sounding quite amateurish as the swing slowly starts to take hold. It doesn't feel so much like an echo to me or even something European, but more like a training wheels on a bicycle that slowly rolls long, hitting some Moffett-driven potholes along the way. It sputters to a quiet bit and Izenzon gets plucky, and the whole piece feels like it's about to open up like the Art Ensemble of Chicago would approach it. Slowly the bubbly pattern comes back into place and we're at halftime, after a round of applause from a room of polite Swedes. On the flipside, 'Dee Dee' bursts out with the toe-tapping exuberance begun with 'Faces and Places', leading to a great interplay between the bass and drums when Coleman drops out. And 'Dawn' is a beautiful, slightly subdued closer, beginning with a long melodic improvisation where the bass echoes the sax melody at times, bowed in a way that resembles another horn almost. Moffett's sound is really tinny, with lots of fluttering around on the hi-hat and not much kick, probably a result of recording techniques of anything. It's a meandering tune, content to coast around peripatetically with lots of coffee breaks. It ends, essentially, in a restless, slow bass solo; Ornette returns to put a cap on it, and we're out. It's a downbeat closing, but it looks ahead to volume two.

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