Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing
Beauty is a Rare Thing
Ornette Coleman (alto sax)
This is Our Music (Atlantic 1353)
Recorded: New York, August 2, 1960
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
John Millington Synge once noted that for poetry to become human again, it must first learn to be brutal. Forget for the moment the precepts of harmolodics or the pieties of free jazz: Ornette Coleman's philosophy of music is not much different from the sentiments expressed in Synge's aphorism. This is the rare beauty he celebrates in the title of this seven-minute performance. The brutality in Coleman's instance was directed toward the vocabulary of modern jazz, which he pares down with a vengeance on this track. His solo is plaintive and liberated from any lingering traces of bop or blues or big band, those three B's of postwar jazz which were to Coleman's contemporaries as constitutive as Bach, Beethoven and Brahms to the symphonists of an earlier age.
Ornette starts with simple melodic phrases here, and when he finally moves beyond them it is to engage in some perfunctory squeals and shrieks on the hornódelivered, alas, without much conviction. (But his Free Jazz session, only a few weeks in the future, would be a different matter entirely.) Cherry is folksy in a diatonic way, but tosses in at least an occasional bit of syncopation to remind us that, yes, this is our jazz music. Blackwell fights his own battle against the tyranny of a swinging beat, and teaches us that the biggest challenge the freedom fighters faced was often in the persistence of the pulse, which typically proves more difficult to avoid than the chord changes. Haden is off in his own arco soundspace, and keeps the walking lines under lock and key. A rare thing indeed . . .
Reviewer: Ted Gioia