Archive for July 8, 2010

European Echoes

Posted in Art, Jazz with tags , , , on July 8, 2010 by telescoper

This is  something I found recently and couldn’t resist sharing. This track from Ornette Coleman has only been on Youtube a month or so and I just found it last night, but I’ve got it on a vinyl LP I bought about 30 years ago. I think the music is completely wonderful on its own, but the idea of accompanying it with examples of the art of Joan Miro was a brilliant one!

European Echoes was recorded live at the Golden Circle club in Stockholm  in 1965, and is part of a famous album that was proclaimed “Record of the Year” the following summer in Downbeat magazine. By the mid-60s Ornette Coleman had already established his reputation as leading light of avant-garde saxophonists and, in his own way, was as great an influence on jazz as Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane had been earlier.

The track features a trio of Coleman on alto sax, David Izenzon on bass, and Charles Moffit on bass. It starts in a deceptively simple manner, with Ornette’s little two-note statements over a fast waltzy 3/4 foundation provided by Izenzon and Moffitt. It then eases into  a passage marked by freer improvisations by Ornette, the meter changing at the same time to 4/4. Ornette plays for more than half the track, after which Izenzon and Moffitt take over for all but the final minute, at which point Izenzon drops out and Moffitt plays an intricate percussion solo.

Although most people I know recognize the virtuosity of modern jazz musicians they don’t really like the music very much. I fell in love with this track as soon as I heard it, partly because it begins simply enough for a beginning saxophonist to play along with, but also because it’s highly original without being  at all self-indulgent. In fact, at one level, everything Ornette Coleman  does on this track is quite simple; he plays the saxophone here like he’d just invented the instrument.  In fact, at least in his early years, he didn’t have much of a technique at all in the conventional sense but nevertheless managed to produce amazingly fresh sounds. This a view echoed by the great Charles Mingus in quote I got from another blog about Ornette Coleman

Now aside from the fact that I doubt he can even play a C scale in whole notes—tied whole notes, a couple of bars apiece—in tune, the fact remains that his notes and lines are so fresh. So when [the jazz dj] Symphony Sid played his record, it made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible.

I did learn to enjoy and admire Ornette Coleman’s more “difficult” music later on, but this was the track that convinced me that Ornette Coleman was a genius.  I hope to get the time over the summer to write a few more posts in appreciation of my favourite jazz artists, but for the time being I’ll just let this piece speak for itself…