The inventor of what has been called “free jazz,” Ornette Coleman belongs to that rare breed of artists/thinkers whose influence extends far beyond the realm of their chosen medium. Always putting his remarkable virtuosity at the service of melody and emotion, he has had a powerful impact on how musicians play, improvise, and compose, on how music lovers listen, on the color and sound of music the world over.
It was while working as an elevator operator in the late-50s in Los Angeles, CA that he formed the Ornette Coleman Quintet, a core of players who would figure largely in his life: a lanky teenage trumpeter, Don Cherry, and a cherubic double bass player with a pensive style, Charlie Haden, who in Ornette found a dream accomplice. Drummers Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell also joined the intense exploratory fold as integral pieces.
Coleman fondly recalls his early collaborators: “I would write new music all the time, usually for every show we had, and they would play like they had been playing it their whole lives. As a group and as human beings, we found a relationship to our common humanity and to the creation of art that was really special, truly something else."
This Is Our Music was issued on Atlantic Records in 1960, Coleman's third release for the label and fifth release overall. The seminal 7-song set is his first with drummer Ed Blackwell in place of Billy Higgins and is also significant in that it's Coleman's lone Atlantic release to feature a non-original, the Gershwin standard "Embraceable You." The remainder of the program is comprised of creative Coleman compositions which give the piano-less quartet room to showcase their immense improvisational talents, highlighted by numbers like "Blues Connotation," "Beauty Is a Rare Thing" and "Kaleidoscope."
Ornette Coleman in the album's liner notes:
"Blues Connotation is played in the blues tradition, which makes it sound like a blues, but as you listen throughout you hear throughout you hear that the minor thirds do not dominate but act as a basis for the melody. And as you get more accustomed to my music, you will realize that this is happening throughout all of it.
"Beauty Is A Rare Thing. This title suggests an impression which is hard to capture in anything one tries to do or believe. Charlie and Blackwell are just as the title suggests in their playing together. The melody, which is simple, starts with an F major concert note and ends with a G concert for the E flat alto and a D concert for the trumpet.
"Kaleidoscope. This melody is fast and has a thirty-two bar form structure, but only as a listening form, not as a playing form. This is another part of the music that happens because of the rhythm we are playing. It also has the minor seventh chord that doesn't come in any diatonic key for its beginning and ending direction.
"Embraceable You is the first standard that we have recorded, and we played it the way standards are played, with as much spontaneity as we could.
"Poise has an F sharp for its sonic on the E flat alto and a D concert for the transposed key with a major seventh melodic direction. Its tempo is medium and has a very free movement.
"Humpty Dumpty. As you listen to the introduction it goes into the theme and the piece ends with the intro. It also has a syncopated melody which causes it to have a rhythmic progression rather than a note progression form.
"Folk Tale has a humorous expression in the bridge (sometimes called the middle of the melody) which carries a folk lore expression, and which is one of the truest and most natural forms of expression in writing and music. And this jazz has! Just as classical music has its composers to tell about the country and its people and themselves."
This essential edition of the Ornette Coleman Quartet's 1960 album This Is Our Music by ORG Music was mastered from the original analog tapes at 45RPM by Bernie Grundman, pressed on two 180 gram audiophile-grade LPs at Pallas in Germany, and is housed in an old school style Stoughton case-wrapped gatefold jacket.