Ornette Coleman’s free jazz and avant-garde compositions were on that slippery border between the accessible and inaccessible for many listeners and this writer. Yet, alto saxophonist Coleman and his long-time collaborator, trumpeter (or pocket trumpeter) Don Cherry’s work has held up remarkably well, first with the band that included Cherry, Old and New Dreams in the late 70’s – mid 80’s, and now revived again here by trumpeter Chris Pasin and his band Ornettiquette.
This is Pasin’s fourth CD as a band leader but this first with this unit that salutes the music of Coleman and Cherry. Pasin’s previous output has been in the straight ahead mode, notably his 2017 holiday album Baby It’s Cold Outside. Yet, he has long been attracted to the avant-garde too, having played along with the records of Coleman, Cherry and saxophonist Albert Ayler as a teenager.
Pasin is a long-time resident of New York’s upper Hudson Valley who earned dual degree in classical and jazz trumpet at New England Conservatory. He has performed in both genres with Gunther Schuller, Toshiko Akiyoshi, George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Jaki Byard, Buddy Rich and many others. He’s also collaborated with the best vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme,, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett while touring with big bands.
This is Pasin’s second project on the label and second with producer Patricia Dalton Fennell. Remarkably, in his search for bandmates in this new project, he didn’t have to go far. Fellow Hudson Valley residents Karl Berger (piano/vibes) and vocalist Ingrid Sertso had both played with Coleman and Cherry. In fact, Berger and Sertso co-founded the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock in the early 70s.
There are eight compositions, bookends by Pasin, the requisite “Ghosts” from Ayler, and five from Coleman including perhaps his best known, “Lonely Woman.” The latter is a rather chill-inducing rendition featuring an eerie bowed bass undercurrent, introspective vocal and Pasin’s riveting trumpet solo. “Ghosts” has a seldom heard combination of vocal-vibes-drums that leads to trumpet- alto sax interplay before ending calmly. Another highlight is the Coleman tune “Tomorrow Is the Question” which presents alto saxophonist Adam Siegel’s finest moments as well as the furious drumming of Harvey Sorgen.
Here is a bit more on the three other band members. Drummer Harvey Sorgen has conducted workshops international and has an amazing genre crossing list of those he has performed with including Ahmad Jamal, Dave Douglas, Roswell Rudd, Levon Helm, Bill Frisell, Carlos Santana, Gregg Allman, Jack DeJohnette, among others. Bassist Michael Bisio as appeared on countless albums as a leader or co-leader and is a widely respected composer and educator. He too has impressive sideman credits that include Matthew Shipp, Sonny Simmons and Charles Gayle, among others.
Any Ornette Coleman styled band would be incomplete without a saxophonist and that role falls to altoist Adam Siegel. He is graduate of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and has played with numerous artists from jazz saxophonist Dick Oatts to folk singer Pete Seeger.
One can’t help but be struck by Coleman’s quote in the CD jacket – “Music has many uses and I thik the most perfected use that music has is one of a healing quality. I don’t try to please when I play, I try to cure. The idea is more important than the style you’re playing in.”
It becomes very clear, especially for those who may be new to Coleman’s music, that despite the daunting labels of free jazz and avant-garde, that Coleman had a real gift for melody too. The band Ornettiquette, led by Pasin’s pure, crisp trumpet tone and imaginative soloing, has each taking band member inventively reimagining Coleman’s important music.
- Jim Hynes
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