By Raymond Ward, Chicago Crusader
FOR JAZZ FANS ONLY!: Ornette Coleman recorded one of the greatest bodies of work in jazz during a 22-month-long burst of creativity. Between 1959 and 1961, the saxophonist and composer released six studio albums on Atlantic Records that helped usher in the avant-garde, free jazz movement.
Those albums, along with more than two hours of session outtakes are featured together in the 10-LP boxed set ORNETTE COLEMAN: THE ATLANTIC YEARS, featuring newly remastered audio by John Webber at AIR Studios. Several of the titles are long out-of-print on vinyl. The Ornette Coleman Legacy, featuring six songs originally released for the first time in 1993 as part of Rhino’s boxed set Beauty Is A Rare Thing, is making its vinyl debut. The new vinyl set from Rhino Records will be available on May 11 for $174.98.
The LPs are presented in replica European-style 1960s jackets in a side—loading slipcase along with a 12 x 12 booklet with new liner notes written by renowned author-music critic Ben Ratliff, plus rare pictures taken by legendary jazz photographer Lee Freidlander.
The albums featured in the set are: The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959), Change Of The Century (1959), This Is Our Music (1960), Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (1960), Ornette! (1961), Ornette On Tenor (1961), The Art Of Improvisers (1970), Twins (1971), To Whom Who Keeps A Record (1975), and The Ornette Coleman Legacy (1993).
On most of his Atlantic albums, Coleman recorded with a quartet that included trumpeter Don Cherry, plus either Charlie Haden or Scott LaFaro on bass, and either Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell on drums. One notable exception is Free Jazz, a groundbreaking single-track album where Coleman led a double quartet through a nearly 40-minute collective improvisation. The stereo mix used for the album separates the quartets into different channels, one on the right and the other on the left.
Coleman worked extensively with producer Nesuhi Ertegun on the music featured in this collection. Their partnership began in 1959 with Coleman’s Atlantic debut, The Shape Of Jazz To Come, an album the Library of Congress added to its National Recording Registry in 2012.