British Multi-Intrumentalist

Category: Ornette Coleman


Art Ensemble of Chicago – People in Sorrow

Recorded in Paris in 1969 before Don Moye joined the group, and always criminally hard to get hold of. 

It did come out on CD as part of the “Americans swinging in Paris” series put out by EMI, mastered from vinyl rather than the source tapes (Chuck Nessa says he has them- come on somebody!).

This record is a masterpiece. A slow-burn improvisation built around a haunting theme which gradually reveals itself.

The Art Ensemble employ the full range of their instrumentation and sound like nobody else. Silence is also a big part of this record.

Unsurprisingly for a group whose stated aim is to play “Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future”, the music conjures up precisely that, including 20th century atonal classical music.

The last part is announced by a drone that sounds like a double reed instrument being played with circular breathing.

The theme is stated openly on unison horns and sounds magnificent. The music briefly reaches fever pitch before returning back to silence.

I’ve played this theme daily for years while practicing, often moving straight into Ornette’s “Lonely Woman” which feels related to me.

Now I tend to mix up the two themes up in my head…


The album 'Town hall, 1962' by Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman – Town Hall, 1962

Town Hall 1962”-a wonderful record.

 Ornette was one of the greatest melodicists in jazz (if not the greatest). This record is full of blues-drenched stream-of -consciousness melodic improvisation, especially on ‘The Ark’, which takes up all of side two.

I love the sound of this recording, and Ornette’s vocal tone never sounded better.

On “Sadness”, everything is reduced to the melody, delivered over David Izenzohn’s arco bass and Charles Moffet’s sparse drumming. 

It’s all there- the aching, vocal tone and the melodic line continuously modulating as it pours out a pure lament. If I had to pick one piece of Ornette’s it might well be this one.

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