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New Century, Same Genius: Ornette Coleman at JVC

John Abercrombie

Concert presenters and nightclub owners tend to showcase the usual suspects. Invariably, they will book big names or proven units that are out touring in support of recent releases. In New York, however, there are a handful of savvy promoters who take great delight in throwing the audience a curve ball every once in a while, concocting unlikely combinations of musicians on the bandstand and, in some cases, mixing and matching artists who may have never played together before. It’s a risky business. When it works the results are often exhilarating. Other times, the chemistry is not happening. In those instances, it quickly becomes clear to everyone in attendance that the experiment was ill-advised.

One ambitious promoter on the New York scene who is fond of mixing and matching artists is Charles Carlini. One of his recent triumphs was the all-star band 4 Generations of Miles, bringing together Miles Davis alumni from different periods-guitarist Mike Stern, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Ron Carter-for a gig at Makor, documented on a 2002 Chesky recording. Carlini also organized the recent Larry Coryell/Lenny White/Victor Bailey power trio which led to two Chesky CDs. Carlini also presented a number of all-star gala tributes to guitar greats as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, including Tal Farlow’s 75th birthday salute in 1996, a tribute to Johnny Smith in 1999, a tribute to George Van Eps in 2000, and a 90th birthday celebration last year for Les Paul at Carnegie Hall. Other combos that Carlini has successfully assembled include the Conga Kings (Patato Valdez, Candido, Giovanni Hidalgo) and Bass Hits (Richard Davis, Buster Williams, Eddie Gomez with Lenny White and James Williams).

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