Artist: Ornette Coleman
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Ornette Coleman’s debut LP Something Else!!!! was received indifferently upon release. It’s no surprise that his free-flowing dissonance would be misunderstood. This is quite unlike any jazz ever heard. Even today, the record sounds ahead of its time.
Coleman’s soloing consists of rapid outbursts of atonal anti-melody, and even though it leads to some occasional rough edges, the pure energy he brings to the performance is astounding. Unfortunately, the one fatal flaw is the inability of Coleman’s bandmates to match their leader’s intensity. This is most evident with pianist Walter Norris; whose solos are slightly unimaginative compared to the work of Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry (playing cornet on this recording).
The problem would be remedied on Coleman’s second album by completely eliminating the piano altogether. Trimming down to a quartet of sax, trumpet, bass and drums allowed his music to become more expansive while simultaneously becoming starker and more minimal.
Released in 1959, The Shape of Jazz to Come is a fiery masterpiece of raw emotion; its predecessor, Something Else!!!!, feels somewhat hampered down and held back. It’s a good album, but just a warmup — probably doesn’t deserve all four of those exclamation points.