Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ornette Coleman Quartet at Lincoln Center

Sept. 26, 2009; Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center; New York, NY

(L-R) Denardo Coleman, Tony Falanga, Ornette Coleman & Al MacDowell at JALC (Photo by Nick Himmel)

Considering how Ornette Coleman was so ardently dismissed by some critics and colleagues when he arrived in New York 50 years ago, it must’ve been extremely gratifying for the 79-year-old jazz revolutionary to receive a hero’s welcome upon entering the spacious, sold-out Rose Theater for his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut. With his son Denardo on drums, Tony Falanga on upright bass and Al MacDowell on electric piccolo bass, the Ornette Coleman Quartet exhibited rare chemistry in a 90-minute set that ran the spectrum from Ornette classics like “Peace,” “Lonely Woman” and “Turnaround” to the anthemic “Dancing in Your Head” and newer material like “City Living” (from 1996’s Sound Museum: Three Women) and “Sleep Talking” (from 2006’s Sound Grammar).

Though his slow walk during his dramatic entrance was noticeably labored, Coleman continues to play with the same pungent tones, incredible fluidity and remarkable vocalizations that have marked his career since his early days in Los Angeles. They opened in kinetic fashion with a new Coleman composition, “Following the Sound,” which was fueled by Denardo’s fast-paced backbeat and underscored by MacDowell’s sophisticated fingerstyle chording and arpeggiating on piccolo bass (an electric four-stringed instrument that has roughly the same range as the first four strings of a guitar). Ornette wafted over the pulsating groove with long keening tones on his white alto sax, blowing in halftime over the fray. He very quickly shifted from sax to violin (Jascha Heifetz he’s not) and then moved on to some arresting trumpet playing (as in, someone should arrest him for putting that horn near his mouth).

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published