Friday, March 10, 2017

Ornette Coleman - Body Meta

It won't be long before I post records by all of my major musical heroes. Ornette Coleman is certainly one of these; his music is a big influence on my own. On the day he died in 2015, I posted this on Facebook, "Ornette Coleman was one of my first and most important musical influences. His was some of the most natural-sounding music anyone has ever created. He showed me the way."

Yesterday would have been Ornette's 87th birthday, so of course I celebrated by playing several of his albums. Body Meta, recorded in 1975 and issued three years later, was the second issued example of Ornette's electric fusion band, which came to be known as Prime Time (although they are not billed that way here.) These five tracks come from the same Paris recordings sessions that produced most of the Dancing in Your Head album that introduced the world to this new development in Ornette's music.

Jazz musicians began exploring combinations of jazz and elements of rock or funk in the 1960s. This music is broadly known as "fusion," and examples range from those that are innovative and excited to those that are self-indulgent and expressively empty. Ornette Coleman's brand of fusion is unlike any other. It's dense, polytonal, and astringent - and at its best, very cool. And this is one of the best of Ornette's Prime Time albums. The band later became Coleman plus a "double trio" - two guitars, two basses, and two drummers - but here it's a five-piece band: Ornette's alto saxophone, Bern Nix and Charles Ellerbee on guitar, Jamaaladeen Tacuma (still known as Rudy McDaniel at the time) on bass, and the great Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums.

Body Meta is on the Artists House label. Artists House was a project of veteran record producer John Snyder, and it was one of the most altruistic record labels of all time. The artists had complete control over the music and the cover art, and they retained ownership of the master tapes. Some of Artists House's LPs made it into the CD era with reissues, but not Body Meta or Coleman's other Artists House album, Soapsuds, Soapsuds, a duo record with Charlie Haden.

Once again, someone has uploaded the entire album to YouTube. The sound is typical compressed YouTube sound, but here it is for folks who don't have a turntable and a nice copy of the LP.

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