You, me, the music, and me.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


ESP 1006 (1965)

Ornette Coleman has been name-checked on this blog so often that anyone who reads it on a semi-regular basis should already be familiar with who he is and what he does; his importance to the style of free, improvised jazz cannot be understated. His music is the model for just about everything in the genre that followed; what the Beatles were to rock and roll, Ornette was (and is) to free jazz. He even has an album titled Free Jazz, from which the music took its name (producing an effect similar to that of Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X).

Town Hall, 1962 was recorded live at Town Hall in New York City on December 21, 1962. It was at this concert that Ornette unveiled his new trio lineup, consisting of himself with David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffett on drums. Strangely, Ornette was to announce his retirement soon after this concert, only to resurface in 1965 with the same trio! Izenson and Moffett are ideal musical partners for Ornette; rather than serve as accompanists, they take an equal role in the music, giving support and taking the lead almost simultaneously. This works perfectly for the trio, producing a powerful, uncluttered sound. Izenson is essential to the stunning "Sadness", as his long bowed tones cushion and amplify the plaintiveness of Ornette's alto. Side two's "The Ark" never flags in energy or invention for all of it's twenty-three minutes, thanks largely to Moffett's propulsive, varied percussion.

The album also contains one of Ornette's pieces for string quartet, titled "Dedication to Poets and Writers". It's nice, but not in the same league as the trio pieces. Like Ornette's other string works, it contains angular melodies and clashing harmonies common to twentieth century art music, but the rhythms are fairly straightforward and baroque, and most of the piece has all four string players playing at once, producing a predictable homogeneity to the music.

Town Hall was released on the tiny independent label ESP; my copy identifies itself as an Italian import from Base Records. The sound quality is superb, even on my cheap stereo; it's been reissued several times on CD but is still hard to find. It can be downloaded from ESP here, and is well worth owning in any format.


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