Liner Note Authors: Howard Mandel; Martin Williams .
Recording information: Hearst Greek Amphitheatre, University of Carlifornia, B (03/22/1969); New York Uiversity (03/22/1969); Hearst Greek Amphitheatre, University of Carlifornia, B (08/1968); New York Uiversity (08/1968).
Photographer: George Whiteman.
Beginning in 1966, saxophonist Ornette Coleman began performing and recording with his son, the then-ten-year-old drummer Denardo Coleman. Dismissed by some at the time for his lack of experience, the younger Coleman quickly developed into an engaging, explosive player, able to mesh nicely within his father's deeply avant-garde free jazz ensembles. The 2017 Real Gone Music collection Ornette at 12/Crisis brings together two live albums Denardo recorded with his father in 1969 and 1972. The first, Ornette at 12 (named after Denardo's age at the time of recording), finds the saxophonist leading his quartet through a performance at the Hearst Greek Amphitheater at the University of California, Berkeley in August of 1968. Joining him are bassist Charlie Haden and tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Here we find the elder Coleman during one of his most primal and exploratory periods playing not just alto sax, but also trumpet and violin. Though untrained on those instruments, he still lets loose, playing with unfettered glee on "Rainbows," his trumpet a puckish sparkler of sound. Similarly, Redman, framed by Haden's bowed bass squelch, unleashes a torrent of notes on "C.O.D." All the while, Denardo is skittering, responsive energy, bashing and sputtering at each improvisational line. Elsewhere, on "Bells and Chimes," Haden grounds the proceedings bowing a dark, heavy metal-sounding riff as Coleman and Redman spew red saxophone storm clouds overhead. An even more adept picture of the drummer can be heard on Crisis. Recorded roughly a year after Ornette at 12, the album showcases the group's performance at New York University. Augmenting the ensemble is the elder Coleman's longtime collaborator, pocket-trumpeter Don Cherry, whose distinctive, fractured melodicism helps further color the already vibrant group. His inclusion also adds gravitas, helping fill out the sound of the group, as heard on the opening "Broken Shadows," in which the band slowly lurches forward like an immense ocean liner entering port. In contrast, "Space Jungle" finds Denardo whacking away with spastic intensity as the horn players ride his wave with a group improv rife with serpentine harmolodic invention. There is even a nod to the group's burgeoning interest in various ethnic and world music traditions on the closing "Trouble in the East." The song begins with Cherry at the front like an avant-garde pied piper delivering a ferocious Indian flute solo. Soon, Coleman, Redman, and Haden join in, their dissonant tones caught in the tumult of Denardo's drumming and a cacophony of what sounds like tin pans, shakers, and bamboo sticks. These live albums document Coleman's further move away from musical form and his increasing embrace of free improvisation as a direct line to emotional and artistic expression. Ultimately, that expression has even more of an impact because of the presence of Denardo's intense, youthful exuberance. ~ Matt Collar