Monday, July 07, 2008


Love this record. I suppose it's a jumbled mess in some respects, a set of 20 some loosely related themes patched together but some of those themes, especially the slower sections, are some of the most beautiful melodic lines I know. Very romantic, very...aspirational in the sense of floating upward. Has this ever been staged live? Performed in recent years? Again, as with the Town Hall concert, in many respects the writing is obviously very conservative relative to things going on in the contemporary classical world in 1972. Curious if Ornette simply didn't care, if he dismissed those trends or if he was more or less oblivious to them. Aside: He was taken to see AMM in '66 while in London and, from reports, ignored them and talked with friends.


Lovely date, just Haden and Ornette, the latter on tenor throughout save for the final track where he switches to trumpet. Interesting that it's from '78 when Prime Time was running full steam; the music here has nothing to do with that. Don't know how many know "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman", the subversive TV show whose theme is played here. Both are in fine, relaxed form. I don't see this mentioned too often, but it's something of a gem, well worth checking out.


This may rank in my 10 Worst Album covers ever list. A 1979 Prime Time date released by Antilles in 1982, it's always struck me as lackluster. I wasn't a huge Prime Time fan. Saw them twice, once in 1977 at Avery Fisher Hall on a "double bill" with Ornette's acoustic quintet (Cherry, Redman, Haden, Blackwell) and then out in the park in Hartford Ct. for Ornette Coleman day around 1983. Might be Calvin Weston's and Denardo's drumming that I find too plodding; could use some Shannon Jackson here. But it's also the tunes he used with this line-up--few of them for me, have as much inherent beauty as his earlier compositions so whatever instrumental filigree they overlay, the structure, to my ears, is rickety.


Been quite a while since I listened to this. I recall cringing when I heard that Ornette was working with Metheny, a musician I've never been able to abide (absurd that he gets top billing on the record). He's OK here, though, kind of subsumed into the harmolodic concept. Good dual drum team of Denardo and DeJohnette. Happily, this holds up surprisingly well, some good intense playing, barely controlled free for alls. By the end of the record, it gets to be a bit much and you want some lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate, but overall, pretty decent.

The remainder of my Ornette on vinyl consists of three items I can't quite work up the interest to spin:

Opening the Caravan of Dreams (1985) more Prime Time that I recall finding pretty tiresome.

In All Languages (1987) Split 2LP with Cherry/Haden/Higgins on one disc Prime Time on the other. My memory of the acoustic set is that the pieces were way to short, almost treated like Prime Time pop songs. Hideous album design as well.

Virgin Beauty (1988) - The sole representation of Jerry Garcia in my collection (he guests on a couple of tracks), enough to keep it off the turntable.....

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Addendum


My only Steve Coleman album, 1998's "Sine Die" on the short-lived, Sting-financed Pangaea label. Boy I hope he's changed his wardrobe since then. I never understood the buzz around his work (though I think he was a fine component of some of Dave Holland's bands around the time). Stilted funk, dry, overcooked melodic lines, sappy lyrics ("Everybody's got to have a destination/Everybody needs somewhere to go")--I don't get it. I had fairly negative memories of this one but wanted to make sure. Now I'm sure.

7 comments:

Captain Hate said...

Ornette recorded with Prime Time on Body Meta which was on Artists House at about the same time. Also he was on Blood Ulmer's Tales of Captain Black which was pretty much Ornette type music anyway (why don't you humor us and give your definition of harmolodics; it would definitely enhance the innerwebzz). The AMM story is pretty funny; did anybody honestly expect Ornette to be interested in their music?

You never got Dancing in Your Head? Lucky you. btw, I have a download of Paris Concert if you want a burn.

Brian Olewnick said...

The first Prime Times appeared during a stretch when I was stereo-less due to an apartment robbery, about late '76 to late '78, so I missed a lot of things that were issued then. I heard it often on KCR though and, as I said, saw the band in the summer of '77. Admittedly, I was pretty strongly into an anti-rock phase at the time so looked widely askance at the project. Maybe it's tainted my opinion, but the group never really did much for me.

I think of harmolodics simply as, after playing the head, everyone soloing but doing so more on the "feel" of the melody than anything else. Seems like at least one member is almost always repeating the head (I noticed that with Tacuma this afternoon).

Herb Levy said...

Skies of America has been performed at least twice. Once in Fort Worth at the time of the opening of the Caravan of Dreams in the early 1980s and once as part of the Lincoln Center Summer Festival within the last ten years or so when Coleman was the featured composer.

There's long been a rumor of an Ornette Coleman collection in the works from Revenant Records that's supposed to make clear what harmolodics is all about, but the last I heard anything "concrete about it must have been at least 4 years ago.

Seth Tisue said...

I have no idea if this opinion is shared by anyone, but Opening the Caravan of Dreams is my favorite Prime Time record (yes, I like it better than the first two). It's a shame it's out of print, because it's heads and shoulders above In All Languages and Virgin Beauty. Your description of Song X ("good intense playing, barely controlled free for all") applies to this one as well.

Re: the quality of the tunes on Of Human Feelings, give "Sleep Talk" a spin, and then compare it to the exquisite version on Sound Grammar as "Sleep Talking". You may change your mind about that one tune, at least (and maybe appreciate the Prime Time version better; I did).

Jean K said...

Skies of America was also performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1988 and I think also elsewhere in Europe around the same time. I was at the Festival Hall and I remember enjoying the concert very much. I'm pretty sure there was a broadcast as well. There's some pictures in Steve Day's book - "Ornette Coleman: Music Always" (Soundworld Publishers, 2000).

I agree with the comments about Opening the Caravan of Dreams - it's one of the best Prime Time records.

I'm currently enjoying the Science Fiction sessions the most of Ornette's work. The group with Bobby Bradford is wonderful - if only there was more....

Romain NOEL said...

Oh man, you can not imagine what you did with this short addendum about Steve Coleman's Sine Die! You just let me identify a song (Destination) through Google (and your comments about lyrics) that I had anonymously recorded on radio in 1987 and I was looking for since 20 years. To be very honest, i was afraid to die before knowing who was playing it. Somewhere you saved my life ;o) Neverending thanks.

Brian Olewnick said...

hah! Always glad to be of service. But man, you should have been searching for a better song!! ;-)