Ornette Coleman: Spelling the Alphabet


Spelling The Alphabet


Ornette Coleman (sax, violin, trumpet)


Virgin Beauty (CBS RK 44301)

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Ornette Coleman (sax, violin, trumpet), Denardo Coleman (drums, keyboards, percussion), Jerry Garcia (guitar), Bern Nix (guitar), Charlie Ellerbe (guitar), Al MacDowell (bass), Chris Walker (bass), Calvin Weston (drums).

Recorded: Master Sound Astoria, 1988


Rating: 82/100 (learn more)

Ornette Coleman has worked with a handful of guitarists during his career, including Jim Hall, Bern Nix, Charlie Ellerbe and Pat Metheny. Given his more roots-oriented past, Jerry Garcia might appear an odd choice. Ah, but when the tumbling runs of “Spelling The Alphabet” are let loose, it seems that Ornette made the right decision. Playing a game of musical “Tag, you're it!”, the musicians take turns linking together their parts of a very long melody line. Some phrases are delivered solo, others in unison. All of this builds up to a short Ornette solo tended only by Denardo's drums. As the head is restated at breakneck speed, it's fun to hear Garcia flying along beside Ellerbe and Nix. Coming in at only 1½ minutes, it's hard not to wish that Ornette had stretched this idea a little farther.

Reviewer: Mark Saleski


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