Ornette Coleman – Chappaqua Suite (FiveFour Records)


Ornette Coleman’s four part Chappaqua Suite was originally meant to soundtrack Conrad Rooks’ film Chappaqua, but after hearing it Rooks decided the free jazz innovator’s music was so strong that the film would be overpowered by it, and decided to go with Ravi Shankar instead. After listening to this new reissue it’s easy to sympathize with Rooks’ decision. Coleman worked alongside David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffet on drums (Pharoah Sanders guests on tenor sax on Part IV), producing a trio sound that was typical of the free jazz era, but Coleman augments the trio with an 11-piece orchestra which gives it a unique sound among a crowded jazz marketplace. The orchestra operates in two modes, switching between free jazz improv and single note stabs that frame the trio’s prolific note-spray style of playing. When the trio and orchestra are both spitting out a lot of notes at the same time there’s an overwhelming amount of activity – frankly too much for the brain to handle – but thankfully the orchestra drops in and out over the course of the 80-minute runtime, and it’s that juxtapostion between  orchestral overload and the trio’s hard attack that makes Chappaqua Suite interesting.

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