- Ornette Coleman
Tomorrow Is The Question! 180g Vinyl LP
Release date: 18 August, 2023
Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman is one of the most important and innovative figures in Jazz, helping change the genre along with the course of modern music. Unknown on the L.A. jazz scene in the late 1950s, Coleman (March 9, 1930 – June 11, 2015) found an open door at Contemporary Records, where label founder Lester Koenig was intrigued by his melodic sensibility and unorthodox approach to phrasing. His first two albums, 1958’s Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman and 1959’s Tomorrow Is the Question! The New Music of Ornette Coleman boldly announced the arrival of an artist who sounded unlike anyone before him, even as his tone and phrasing revealed his deep feel for the Texas blues. More than a seminal improviser and composer who exponentially expanded jazz’s rhythmic and harmonic frontiers, Coleman embodied the playfully ideal at the center of African-American musical innovation. Radical and rootsy, avant-garde and populist, Coleman was born and raised in Ft. Worth, and the wailing Texas blues was woven into his sound. After his Contemporary albums, Coleman quickly went on to New York City and turned the jazz scene on its head, but it was Koenig who provided the first glimpse at the saxophonist’s new approach to rhythm and harmony.
On his second outing for the Contemporary label, Ornette dusted the piano from the bandstand and focused instead on a quartet. For some unexplained reason, Billy Higgins was replaced by Shelly Manne; the only constants remain Coleman and Don Cherry. The focus, then, is on the interplay between the altoist and trumpeter in executing Ornette's tunes, which were, more than on the preceding album (Something Else!, recorded a year earlier), knottier and tighter in their arrangement style. The odd-syncopation style of the front line on numbers such as "Tears Inside," which comes out of the box wailing and then simmers down into a moody, swinging blues, was a rough transition for the rhythm section. And the more Ornette and Cherry try to open it up into something more free and less attached to the tune's form, the more Manne and especially bassist Percy Heath hang on. Still, there are great moments here: for example, the celebratory freedom of "Giggin'," with its wonderful trumpet solo, and "Rejoicing," which has become one of Coleman's classics for its elongated melody line and simple obbligato phrasing, which become part of a wonderfully complex solo that keeps the blues firmly intact. The final track, "Endless," is pure magic. After Manne carries it in 6/8, Coleman uses a nursery rhyme to move to the solo terrain and, when he does, the solo itself becomes a part of that rhyme as even Don Cherry feels his way through it in his break. And, if anything, this is one of the things that came to define Ornette -- his willingness to let simplicity and its bright colors and textures confound not only other players and listeners, but also him too. In those days, Coleman's musical system -- although worked out in detail -- always left room for the unexpected and, in fact, was played as if his life depended on it. As a result, Tomorrow Is the Question! was a very literal title; who could have guessed the expansive, world-widening direction that Coleman's system would head into next?
- Vinyl LP
- Craft Recordings