Ornette Coleman: The Riddle
Ornette Coleman (alto sax)
The Ornette Coleman Trio at the "Golden Circle" Stockholm, Volume Two (Blue Note CDP-84225)
Composed by Ornette Coleman.
Recorded: live in Stockholm, Sweden, December 4, 1965
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
"The Riddle" is an almost 10-minute collective free-bop improvisation with a brief, don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it melodic tag on the end. Taken at a medium-up tempo, Ornette plays much of it in a jittery double-time. Supported by drummer Charles Moffett's bop-derived flights of freedom and bassist David Izenson's supple plucked bassline and guttural arco, Ornette's solo is a paradigm of what stream-of-consciousness improvisation can accomplish. He has so internalized the component parts of this style (which he invented, by the way) that he's able to manipulate it to communicate any effect: technical, emotional or otherwise. That means playing ahead, behind or right in the middle of the beat; grasping a tonal center or rejecting it entirely, for as long or as briefly as he wants; making one cry or laugh. "The Riddle" makes clear just how far Ornette had progressed in the 2+ years he was away from the jazz scene. Not only did teach himself to play two new instruments—trumpet and violin—he'd also improved as a saxophonist. Here he plays with more confidence than ever. His silence in 1963-64 begat an even more joyful noise in '65.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey