Ornette Coleman: Skies of America

Ornette Coleman's approach to playing the "vierd" blues that resulted from "harmolodic movement of forms" was an amazing mix of folk tales and angel voices, ramblin' changes and tears inside. But aside from Free Jazz, could he create extended compositions? A major opportunity came when Columbia agreed to record Skies of America, which was subsequently partitioned into 21 shorter sections by the producer (with Ornette's apparent approval and his sub-titles), and with the theme and title section placed right at the beginning.

The skies were definitely dark and turbulent. In fact the first half of the entire album coughs and shrieks, all hard-driving percussion and harsh straining strings. Only in the second half, when Ornette's own keening alto joins in soloing over the orchestra, is there a sense of relief, as the strange beauty of his unique conception comes to the fore. But back at the beginning, the opening 2-plus minutes, the orchestra cried out unanswered. And the entire botched event (which saw some sections omitted due to time constraints and his quartet barred from participation by England's visiting musician rules) rendered Coleman's angst-ridden, non-ethereal lament for alto and orchestra incomplete. Sadly, these skies are just not blues enough.     

April 22, 2009 · 0 comments


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