Ornette 2000: The Sony Press Release
Sony Music's press release for the two Ornette Coleman Releases, unedited. Opinions, information and hyperbole are all courtesy of Sony and may not reflect your friendly Webmaster's views.
COLUMBIA LEGACY RELEASES TWO LANDMARK PROJECTS--
THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SESSIONS IS A 2-CD SET
SKIES OF AMERICA IS ORNETTE'S MOST AMBITIOUS WORK -- HIS FIRST SYMPHONIC
FIRST TIME ON CD IN U.S. FOR BOTH PROJECTS
In stores May 2, 2000
Almost 30 years since Ornette Coleman proposed a brave new music of everyday melody, symphonic ambition and jazz iconoclasm on his Columbia albums SCIENCE FICTION, BROKEN SHADOWS and SKIES OF AMERICA, these lost masterpieces have come to sound more prophetic -- and better realized -- than ever.
Columbia Legacy has enhanced Coleman's legendary but long-out-of-print efforts of September 1971, April and September '72 with 24-bit remastering, previously unreleased tracks, new and corrected liner notes, and historic photographs, for release in two packages. THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SESSIONS (two CDs) and SKIES OF AMERICA will surely be acclaimed, debated and hugely influential again upon their new availability, as they represent startling audio visions by a unique modern artist, a musician of astonishing mind, heart and soul. Following the recent celebration of Coleman's 70th birthday, both titles arrive in stores May 2, 2000.
The story of Ornette Coleman's travails from self-taught Fort Worth, Texas r&b honker and bebopper to point man of the international avant garde is verifiable American folklore, a rags to riches tale that nods to Voltaire's Candide, with its triumph of determined innocence. Suffering years as a musical outcast on tour of the south with tent shows, and in obscurity in Los Angeles, Coleman was "discovered" by California record producer Lester Koenig in 1956, and after two albums arrived at New York City's Five Spot for a highly visible extended booking for his riotous quartet.
Musical celebrities vied to deflate or endorse Coleman and company (Miles Davis was a naysayer, but supporters included Leonard Bernstein, John Lewis and Gunther Schuller). Coleman emerged from the Five Spot with an Atlantic Records contract, which resulted in a burst of recordings through 1961; then he freelanced for the ESP, Blue Note, Impulse! and Flying Dutchman labels before signing an intended three-record deal with Columbia Records in 1971.
THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SECTIONS adds three previously unreleased bonus tracks, including one unknown piece ("Written Word") to Coleman's Columbia LPs SCIENCE FICTION (first issued in '72) and BROKEN SHADOWS ('82). Throughout, he unleashes his impassioned, vocally-inflected, blues-drenched alto sax, violin and trumpet in vivid colloquy with longtime members of his improvisational circle: the trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden, drummers Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. These are the all-stars of the free jazz revolution Coleman had sparked in the 1950s, playing in top form, premiering such enduring compositions as "Law Years" and "School Work" (this sing-song line launchs his later, famous 23-minute version).
But SCIENCE FICTION also includes Coleman's genre-confounding mix for poet David Henderson (the title track, with a baby's cry), a rare performance by Charlie Haden on electric wah-wah bass ("Rock The Clock"), and two unforgettable ballads sung by Indian-born coloratura Asha Puthli ("What Reason Could I Give" and "All My Life") with unusual examples of Ornette performing obligatto. On two tracks recorded September 8, 1972, Coleman added pianist Cedar Walton, guitarist Jim Hall, and a small woodwinds-brass ensemble to his quartet with Redman, Haden and Blackwell to backup Webster Armstrong, a blues singer with a 1930s feel. In plentitude and variety, THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SESSIONS might seem like Coleman's pop-art celebration of American manners and mores.
In contrast, SKIES OF AMERICA as written is Coleman's epic concerto grosso, a sobering societal overview with subtitles alluding to "Birthdays and Funerals," "The Soul Within Woman," "Foreigner In A Free Land," and "The Men Who Live In The White House." Approximately a third of Coleman's symphony had to be excerpted for inclusion by James Jordan, his cousin and producer of the original sessions, due to limitations of the running length of an LP in 1972. Also, due to British work-rules, Coleman couldn't record his quartet with the orchestra, as he'd planned.
However, contrary to some previous reviews, the performance of Coleman's challenging, unconventional score by the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton by David Meacham (in London, April '72) is a marvel of clarity and organization. The composer solos on alto sax to splendid effect over three of the 21 distinct movements presented here, and the CD admirably captures the orchestra's transparency and depths.
As always, Coleman's personal affect is unmistakable, resolute and compelling as he guides conventional symphonic forces towards his iconoclastic orchestration and through his episodic structure. SKIES OF AMERICA has subsequently been performed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Giordano and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Masur, but it has not again been commercially recorded. Still it stands to exemplify Coleman's so-called Harmolodic ("harmony, melody, motion") Theory, his self-defined initiative to liberate and personalize melodic and rhythmic improvisatory expression, while releasing Western harmonic conventions from long-assumed constraints.
Ornette Coleman has continued to create unprecedented, provocative repertoire to this present day, notably with his ensemble Prime Time, surrounded by electric guitars, basses and drums, keyboards and tablas. He's not written another symphony, but he has composed many more compositions for performance by chamber ensembles, and has performed internationally with jazz-identified colleagues including Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Lee Konitz, Joachim Kuhn and Wallace Roney. The harmolodic future he's forecast, where styles run together and expression's the thing, seems on the verge of dawning, at last. In fact, it has arrived on CD, starting here, starting now -- with SKIES OF AMERICA and THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SESSIONS.
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