Ornette Coleman: Bird Food
Ornette Coleman (alto sax)
Change of the Century (Atlantic 781341-2)
Composed by Ornette Coleman.
Recorded: Hollywood, October 8-9, 1959
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Being highly influenced by melody and lyricism is usually not a disadvantage, except when listening to the music of a pioneer like Ornette Coleman, who defied the conventions of standard musical logic and created his own path for musical expression. On "Bird Food," one can viscerally sense the intense sympathetic action/reaction of the musicians who make up this "free" playing group. Each member, a talented artisan in his own right, is seamlessly connected to the thoughts of his fellow musicians as if by some gossamer, translucent spinal chord that spreads vibrant energy to the players while never really confining them to the limited motions of homo erectus. In this piece, Coleman plays his plastic alto in homage to Charlie "Bird" Parker without ever imitating. His coincidental lines with the pocket trumpet of cohort Don Cherry mimic the Dizzy/Parker melodies of the past, but only briefly and only as a starting point. Charlie Haden's roaming basslines and Billy Higgins's dancing drums drive the tune through its winding twists and turns. Cherry's solo is a playful exploration that might have put a smile on Diz's face – or maybe not. Coleman, at times free-swinging with only hints of melodic direction, explores the reaches of his mind on this serpentine journey yet magically never loses Haden or Higgins, who communicate in an almost telepathic way. In the liner notes for this song, Coleman says that Bird would have understood the direction he was taking, breaking free of what had come before. Some did; others still don't. Stirring music nonetheless.
Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello