Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ornette Coleman-TOWN HALL, 1962 CD (ESP-Disk 1006-2, early-nineties ZYX edition from Germany)

No mega "vicariousness"-like posts today...I'm tired. And no in-depth, soul-rendering commentaries as well...I'm tired-ER (a neat swipe from CAN'T BUY A THRILL #1!), which doesn't mean that I won't be writing anything in a day or three once something that has lit the fire under my perpetually-pitted butt floats to the surface (such as a few inneresting acts due to play one of the CBGB stages this upcoming week or two), but let's just say that for right now all this respected blogger feels fit to do is stay crammed up in his sweaty boudoir listening to music and eyeballing a cache of everything from old funnies and fanzines to books of historical and political relevancy WITHOUT feeling OBLIGATED to tell you eager beavers out there all about my karmik experiences osmosing the greatness of such bounty just so's you can live through my glorious experience! If you feel like somehow zoning into my own personal fun and games may I suggest you stroll through the past year-and-three-fourths of pertinent BLOG TO COMM postings or better yet pluck down some hard-begged moolah for a back issue or ten of my own "infamous" BLACK TO COMM fanzine where you can spend the next three months just pouring through ONE massive and jambus packtus issue which says things NOBODY would dare say on a blog because the bird flu certainly has infested a buncha chickens out there. And in today's world, where else can you find a penny-pinching bargain like this?

However today I will talk about the Ornette Coleman TOWN HALL 1962 live album that the infamous-beyond-belief ESP-Disk label unsuspectingly released on a free jazz-minded populace sometime in the middle portion of that decade. And hey, I remember the first time I ever saw this one in the, in the vinyl. It was in the bins at some Cleveland-area shopping mall store sometime back in '77...Christmas break if I remember correctly! And believe-you-me, I remember flipping when I saw this 'un in the jazz section snuggled amidst a whole slewwa Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra scrapings I never knew existed (this boy being drawn further and further into the avant-jazz realms thanks to a gift subscription to DOWN BEAT and loads of time hanging around the music section of various local and school libraries) and although I decided to put out for the first Fugs album instead of this enticing Coleman platter (since I'd been trying to order the ESP-era Fugs albums from the local emporium for the past year without any success whatsoever) it's like this Ornette spotting stayed in my mind for quite some time given that my mad obsession with music as a noisy form of towers-open-fire WARFARE was just beginning to burst at the seams.

You probably know the schpiel...Coleman, ready to go into hibernation, played a farewell concert at the infamous Town Hall in En Why See as a sorta solemn so long, only to re-emerge a few years later all fresh and dainty having learned trumpet and violin in the process and ready to shake up the avant garde into even further reaches of irrythmical blitz. But anyway there was this gig, which not only featured Ornette in a trio setting with David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffet on percussion, but a string quartet and a rhythm and blues band doing Coleman compositions opening the proceedings. Coleman even sat in on a song with the r&b group but they're nowhere to be seen on this disque...however, the string quartet are, and they can be heard performing a Coleman comp entitled "Dedication to Poets and Writers" which sounds more avant-classical than jazz, but then again Coleman was just hop-skip-and-jumping ahead a few years to the likes of the AACM who were also mixing and matching the classical, blues, rock and jazz to the point where it ALL seemed like the old "everything-is-one" hippie credo personified, albeit sounding a lot better'n when most hippies tried to put their beliefs into sound.

TOWN HALL 1962 is a good object lesson as to where the avant garde in jazz stood as far as atonality and general get-down jams went in the early-sixties. Gotta say that this one sounds pretty advanced for the time...think about it, a lotta the avant garde jazz was heavily steeped in classical concepts (witness onetime Coleman sideman Paul Bley's work not to mention the chamber jazz of Jimmy Guiffre and even Cecil Taylor had as much Stravinsky as Ellington in his soul!) while even future trailblazers like Sun Ra had yet to go as far out in their approach as they would have by decade's end. (Albeit Ra's all-time noise classic COSMIC TONES FOR MENTAL THERAPY was released a year later even though hardly anybody got a chance to hear the thing.) But on this document Coleman and band play in a fashion that, true, sounds restrained next to what such acolytes as Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman would be cooking up in a few year's time, but it still sounds as freak-the-Feathers as anything 1962 woulda come up with. Even Eric Dolphy wasn't this "out" (though his energy was more inward-turned), and while I'm at it I gotta congratulate the backing band...Izenzon sounds way more tuned-in than Charlie Haden ever did (though I gotta say I have my prejudices against Haden given his unabashed communist leanings and Synanon associations) while Moffet almost approaches Sunny Murray heights of free-splat being the second-best drummer to play behind Coleman, the first undoubtedly being Ornette's own son Denardo.

Too bad nobody ever thought of releasing the entire show of this...hopefully that idea'll sink into somebody's head within the next few millenia. (Another live treat you may want to seek: THE LONDON CONCERT 2-LP set recorded '65 and released on Arista/Freedom a decade later which unfortunately had a very short shelf-life thanks to Coleman's legal eagles. A very similar affair only with a wind quartet replacing the string one and early appearances of Coleman's recently-learned trumpet and violin playing adding an even more befuddled tone of brilliance to the gig!)


Anonymous said...

Never heard about Charlie Haden's associations with Synanon

Christopher Stigliano said...

Yeah, it was documented in an old DOWN BEAT back in the late-seventies. The question is...I wonder if he was involved in any of their more cult-ish doings, perhaps raising snakes???

J.D.F. said...

chris i thought this record was pretty good, but ornette clocks in better on some later releases... you ever hear the TENOR record he put out? probably my fave free jazzer paint peeling screel is art ensemble's bap tizum. used to blare this in middle schoooll

Christopher Stigliano said...

ORNETTE ON TENOR is fine (though I thought that one came out on Atlantic ca. '61...will have to do some web research), though I must admit that TOWN HALL probably is my fave early-period Coleman album. BAP-TIZUM is a fine one though I prefer the early quartet Art Ensemble sides as I've stated many a time. And of course the current jazz underground is producing many fine efforts that equal the best of the mid-seventies NYC loft sounds that for me were the pinnacle of the form, but I assume you readers know that already.

J.D.F. said...

you heard of jemeel moondoc? i'd venture best going horn player today.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Yeah...Moondoc's appeared at the CBGB Lounge (and now Jimmy's Tavern) free jazz series many times and has a ton of CDs out that I'll have to look into one of these days. Another great tenor man is James Finn...I just got his latest (?) CD which I hope to review soon, and it's a fantastic slow-burn avant masterpiece!