Ornette Coleman: The Garden of Souls
The Garden of Souls
Ornette Coleman (alto sax)
New York Is Now! (Blue Note BST 84287)
Composed by Ornette Coleman.
Recorded: New York, April 29, 1968
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
It seems almost an article of faith among critics that New York Is Now! and Love Call are among Ornette Coleman's lesser works; more than one scribe has panned them outright. Listening with fresh ears, it's hard to understand why. Both contain marvelous music. As the first track of New York Is Now!, "The Garden of Souls" introduced listeners to Ornette's latest foil, Dewey Redmanóa tenor saxophonist with a rasping tone and soulful manner, whose oblique solos complemented and shadowed Coleman's. Redman's tenor fills out the ensemble, his husky tone burnishing the balladic theme statement, his focused improvisation adding more physicality to Ornette's concept.
Most of the criticism heaped on this music is aimed at bassist Jimmy Garrison, and, to a lesser extent, drummer Elvin Jones, whose main crime seems to be that they weren't Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. Garrison tends to engage Jones more directly than he does Ornette, making him, one supposes, more conventional than some of his predecessors with ColemanóDavid Izenson and Scott LaFaro, especially. But Garrison did the same thing when he and Jones backed John Coltrane. Elvin conversed with Coltrane; Garrison held down the bottom. That also happens here to good effect: Elvin listens closely to Ornette, mostly following the saxophonist's meandering whims, while Garrison listens for Elvin's cues and responds accordingly.
Thanks mostly to his choice of sidemen, the mood of the performance is darker than is typical for Ornette, but that just adds to its uniqueness. Garrison and Jones were different from Ornette's prior accompanists, all right. That doesn't make them bad or even unsuitable. Vive la difference. This is top-notch stuff.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey