Ornette Coleman: Sound Gravitation


Sound Gravitation


Ornette Coleman (violin)


The Empty Foxhole (Blue Note CDP-84224)

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Ornette Coleman (violin), Charlie Haden (bass), Denardo Coleman (drums).

Composed by Ornette Coleman


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 9, 1966


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

Ornette Coleman took a step or two in a new direction with The Empty Foxhole. Whether or not it was a direction worth pursuing is something listeners must decide for themselves. The inclusion of his 10-year-old son as the drummer raised quite a ruckus when this record came out. Young Denardo was clearly his father's son: his iconoclastic (can a 10-year-old be an iconoclast?) approach on this freely improvised track disdains any semblance of time-keeping, instead accenting and responding to what his dad and Charlie Haden do on violin and bass, respectively. Ornette's violin technique consists primarily of scraped double-stops and very fast, serpentine lines. There's little melodic definition; it's mostly an exploration of timbre and texture. Haden mixes it up with Coleman & Son, while his fluttering pizzicato serves as an important organizing element. Denardo clearly has big ears and quick reflexes. Everything he plays relates to what his elders are doing. On some of the album's other tracks, he's forced into something of a conventional role, which doesn't suit him at this point. He's much better equipped to play absolutely free, as he does here with some success. This is a very noisy performance, more akin to '80s-era non-idiomatic free improvisation than jazz. Not for everyone, certainly. Maybe not even for Ornette. On his next two Blue Note albums he used Elvin Jones.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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