Tuesday, June 2, 2015

change of the century

Ornette Coleman found an emotional ethos in the ramblin' abandon of this impressionist ensemble improvisation.    After recording two albums of unconventional jazz for Contemporary Records (Something Else !!!!  and  Tomorrow Is the Question!), Coleman had moved to Atlantic Records to take things even further with The Shape of Jazz to Come.      'Change of the Century' features the same cast of characters as The Shape of Jazz to Come:   with producer Nesuhi Ertegün and engineer Bones Howe capturing the magical interplay between  Ornette Coleman on his plastic alto saxophone;  Don Cherry on pocket trumpet; Charlie Haden on bass;  and Billy Higgins on drums.   The sessions took place  on October 8 and 9, 1959, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. 


'Change of the Century' 
full album:


All compositions by Ornette Coleman

Side one
1. "Ramblin'"   6:39
2. "Free"   6:24
3. "The Face of the Bass"   6:59

Side two
1. "Forerunner"   5:16
2. "Bird Food"   5:31
3. "Una Muy Bonita"   6:02
4. "Change of the Century"   4:41

 "Music Always" 

 "The Circle with the Hole in the Middle" 

liner notes:

     Some musicians say, if what I’m doing is right, they should never have gone to school.

     I say, there is no single right way to play jazz. Some of the comments made about my music make me realize though that modern jazz, once so daring and revolutionary, has become, in many respects, a rather settled and conventional thing. The members of my group and I are now attempting a break-through to a new, freer conception of jazz, one that departs from all that is “standard” and cliché in “modern” jazz.

     Perhaps the most important new element in our music is our conception of free group improvisation. The idea of group improvisation, in itself, is not at all new; it played a big role in New Orleans’ early bands. The big bands of the swing period changed all that. Today, still, the individual is either swallowed up in a group situation, or else he is out front soloing, with none of the other horns doing anything but calmly awaiting their turn for their solos. Even in some of the trios and quartets, which permit quite a bit of group improvisation, the final effect is one that is imposed beforehand by the arranger. One knows pretty much what to expect.

     When our group plays, before we start out to play, we do not have any idea what the end result will be. Each player is free to contribute what he feels in the music at any given moment. We do not begin with a preconceived notion as to what kind of effect we will achieve. When we record, sometimes I can hardly believe that what I hear when the tape is played back to me, is the playing of my group. I am so busy and absorbed when I play that I am not aware of what I’m doing at the time I’m doing it.

     I don’t tell the members of my group what to do. I want them to play what they hear in the piece for themselves. I let everyone express himself just as he wants to. The musicians have complete freedom, and so, of course, our final results depend entirely on the musicianship, emotional make-up and taste of the individual member. Ours is at all times a group effort and it is only because we have the rapport we do that our music takes on the shape that it does. A strong personality with a star-complex would take away from the effectiveness of our group, no matter how brilliantly he played.

     With my music, as is the case with some of my friends who are painters, I often have people come to me and say, “I like it but I don’t understand it.” Many people apparently don’t trust their reactions to art or to music unless there is a verbal explanation for it. In music, the only thing that matters is whether you feel it or not. You can’t intellectualize music; to reduce it analytically often is to reduce it to nothing very important. It is only in terms of emotional response that I can judge whether what we are doing is successful or not. If you are touched in some way, then you are in with me. I love to play for people, and how they react affects my playing.

     A question often asked of me is why I play a plastic alto. I bought it originally because I needed a new horn badly, and I felt I could not afford a new brass instrument. The plastic horn is less expensive, and I said to myself, “Better a new horn than one that leaks.” After living with the plastic horn, I felt it begin to take on my emotion. The tone is breathier than the brass instrument, but I came to like the sound, and I found the flow of music to be more compact. I don’t intend ever to buy another brass horn. On this plastic horn I feel as if I am continually creating my own sound.

     Now to the music. They are all originals. Each is quite different from the other, but in a certain sense there really is no start or finish to any of my compositions. There is a continuity of expression, certain continually evolving strands of thought that link all my compositions together. Maybe it’s something like the paintings of Jackson Pollock.

     RAMBLIN’ is basically a blues, but it has a modern, more independent melodic line than older blues have, of course. I do not feel so confined to the blues form as do so many other jazz musicians. Blues are definite emotional statements. Some emotional statements can only be told as blues.

     FREE is well-explained by the title. Our free group improvising is well demonstrated here. Each member goes his own way and still adds tellingly to the group endeavor. There was no predetermined chordal or time pattern. I think we got a spontaneous, free-wheeling thing going here.

     FACE OF THE BASS begins as a vehicle for our bassist. Charlie Haden is from Missouri and he has a lot of heart. It is unusual to come across someone as young as he is and find that he has such a complete grasp of the “modern” bass: melodically independent and non-chordal.

     FORERUNNER shows the interchangeability and flexibility of the component parts of the group. I like the way the melody here often runs through the rhythm instruments, with the melody instruments – the horns – providing rhythm accents (the traditional function of drums and bass).

     BIRD FOOD has echoes of the style of Charlie Parker. Bird would have understood us. He would have approved our aspiring to something beyond what we inherited. Oddly enough, the idolization of Bird, people wanting to play just like him, and not make their own soul-search, has finally come to be an impediment to progress in jazz.

     UNA MUY BONITA, in Spanish, means “a very pretty girl.” I had no one in particular in mind. It is perhaps a little lighter in mood than some of our other pieces. It has a relaxed feeling and a more settled rhythm – and yes, I suppose, a “prettier” melody.

     CHANGE OF THE CENTURY expresses our feeling that we have to make breaks with a lot of jazz’s recent past, just as the boppers did with swing and traditional jazz. We want to incorporate more musical materials and theoretical ideas – from the classical world, as well as jazz and folk – into our work to create a broader base for the new music we are creating.

     Every member of the group made an important and distinctly personal contribution to this album, which I think is the best we have made so far.

     ORNETTE COLEMAN (as told to Gary Kramer)

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