ORNETTE COLEMAN — Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman (review)

ORNETTE COLEMAN — Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman album cover Album · 1958 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
ORNETTE COLEMAN shook up the jazz world right from the beginning despite his debut album being quite tame (for him anyway) and more in the lines of traditional 1950s bebop. While working as an elevator operator in a Los Angeles department store, COLEMAN found time to assemble his first array of jazz newbies in the group form of Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (double bass) and drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, the former who would join the The ORNETTE COLEMAN Quartet starting with “This Is Our Music,” and the latter who would sign up right from the beginning hang around with the band for a few albums. He would soon meet music producer Lester Koenig of Contemporary Records who recognized his unique vision of revitalizing the union of blues and jazz and was one of the few of the day who also understood his early free jazz leanings to loosen the harmony and chord progressions and the structuring of pitch changes between the notes which would earn him the reputation of playing out of tune. COLEMAN would release two albums on Contemporary before hitting the big time with Atlantic Records which would debut his classic masterpiece “The Shape Of Jazz To Come.”

The debut album SOMETHING ELSE!!!! was only the beginning of COLEMAN’s eccentricities unfurling themselves in his song structures however despite the format being looser and freer of contemporary jazz, on this debut album we more or less find a fairly restrained COLEMAN in an incipient stage of leading his band mate’s into the strange new realms of breaking free from the tradition bebop format and giving the world a mere sampling of what was to come without opening all the floodgates at once. This is the only album in COLEMAN’s discography that contains a substantial role for the piano (handled by Walter Norris) giving this album a very traditional hard bebop structure before he would start to de-emphasize the role of the keyboards and often eliminate it altogether on future releases. Strange magic is afoot here for upon first listen you might mistake this for a rather standard hard bop album of the day. After all the percussion, bass lines and phrasing are fairly standard but there is certainly something strange lurking under these swinging rhythms and syncopation and it comes not only from COLEMAN’s style of sax playing, but also from the compositions themselves.

COLEMAN is credited with restoring the blues to their original roots in African music with unhooked harmonies, thus incorporating traits like the 17 and 25 bar blues. A musical nerd’s dream come true, SOMETHING ELSE!!!! incorporates all kinds of musical innovations that were unmatched for the day except by perhaps Cecil Taylor who was seemingly on a similar free jazz musical trajectory. This is one of those albums that is brilliantly executed as a standard hard bebop album of the day but also undertakes many innovative factors that would blossom just a few years down the road. While many artist’s are only getting their feet wet on their debut album, ORNETTE COLEMAN displays on SOMETHING ELSE!!!! that he has already dived into the swimming pool. It is clear that he is striving to break into a freer state of jazz but is band-oriented enough to understand the limitations of the participating members and only takes his vision as far as possible under the context of this stage of development. A mandatory listen for COLEMAN fans!
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