Monday, July 11, 2011

Ornette Coleman - Tomorrow Is the Question

On his second outing for the Contemporary label, Ornette dusted the piano from the bandstand and focused instead on a quartet. For some unexplained reason, Billy Higgins was replaced by Shelly Manne; the only constants remain Coleman and Don Cherry. The focus, then, is on the interplay between the altoist and trumpeter in executing Ornette's tunes, which were, more than on the preceding album (Something Else!, recorded a year earlier), knottier and tighter in their arrangement style. The odd-syncopation style of the front line on numbers such as "Tears Inside," which comes out of the box wailing and then simmers down into a moody, swinging blues, was a rough transition for the rhythm section. And the more Ornette and Cherry try to open it up into something more free and less attached to the tune's form, the more Manne and especially bassist Percy Heath hang on. Still, there are great moments here: for example, the celebratory freedom of "Giggin'," with its wonderful trumpet solo, and "Rejoicing," which has become one of Coleman's classics for its elongated melody line and simple obbligato phrasing, which become part of a wonderfully complex solo that keeps the blues firmly intact. The final track, "Endless," is pure magic. After Manne carries it in 6/8, Coleman uses a nursery rhyme to move to the solo terrain and, when he does, the solo itself becomes a part of that rhyme as even Don Cherry feels his way through it in his break. And, if anything, this is one of the things that came to define Ornette -- his willingness to let simplicity and its bright colors and textures confound not only other players and listeners, but also him too. In those days, Coleman's musical system -- although worked out in detail -- always left room for the unexpected and, in fact, was played as if his life depended on it. As a result, Tomorrow Is the Question! was a very literal title; who could have guessed the expansive, world-widening direction that Coleman's system would head into next? - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Now this is more like it! After a mediocre debut on "Somethin' Else," Ornette gets down to business on his second album for the Contemporary label, "Tomorrow Is The Question." Smartly Ornette has adopted a pianoless quartet for this recording, the lineup he became famous with on Atlantic. The songwriting is beginning to come together too, particularly on "Rejoicing." My reason for withholding a fifth star for this CD is twofold. First, if his Atlantic Recordings "The Shape of Jazz to Come," "This Is Our Music" and "Free Jazz" are five-starrers, this is clearly a notch below. Second, and more importantly, the personnel here are not quite on par with his Atlantic group. Don Cherry is here, but he is joined by Red Mitchell and Percy Heath alternating on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums. While these three are giants of jazz, they are certainly not monumental figures of the "new jazz" for a reason. They do not bring to Ornette's music what Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell will later. Still, this is a great buy and not to be overlooked. - by Michael B. Richman,

Artist: Ornette Coleman
Album: Tomorrow Is the Question
Year: 1959 (Contemporary)
Label: OJC (1988)
Runtime: 42:45

1.  Tomorrow Is The Question! 3:12 
2.  Tears Inside 5:04 
3.  Mind And Time 3:11 
4.  Compassion 4:39 
5.  Giggin' 3:22 
6.  Rejoicing 4:03 
7.  Lorraine 5:59 
8.  Turnabout 7:58 
9.  Endless 5:17 
All compositions by Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman (Alto Saxophone)
Don Cherry (Trumpet)
Percy Heath (Double Bass) - 1-6
Red Mitchell (Double Bass) - 7-9
Shelly Manne (Drums)



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