Ornette Coleman: Tomorrow Is The Question!
Craft Recordings CR 00396
Tomorrow Is The Question!
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Review by Mark Werlin - February 15, 2023
Critical attention to Ornette Coleman’s first LP, Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!!, sustained Coleman through another year of composing and practicing with his musical allies. Drummer Billy Higgins, who had participated in the Something Else!!!! sessions, was playing with Paul Bley’s group at the Hillcrest Club in Los Angeles. Coleman and Don Cherry joined Higgins for that engagement, during which Coleman became acquainted with a young bassist named Charlie Haden who had recently arrived in Los Angeles. The lineup of Coleman’s soon-to-be working quartet, Cherry, Haden, and Higgins, fell into place.
At Contemporary Records’ studio on January 16 and February 23, 1959, Coleman and Cherry were joined by Red Mitchell on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. Biographers report that Mitchell didn’t connect with Coleman’s music, though his presence on the album doesn’t distract from the quality of Coleman’s open-ended blues-based compositions. With only three tunes recorded over two session days, Coleman was determined to change the direction of the album. Coleman and Cherry traveled to San Francisco, where the Modern Jazz Quartet were performing, in hopes of persuading bassist Percy Heath to replace Red Mitchell for the next recording session.
This proved to be a turning point in Coleman’s career. MJQ pianist-composer John Lewis invited Coleman and Cherry to play on the stand. Lewis was so impressed with what he heard that he asked Atlantic Records chief Neshui Ertegun to offer scholarships to Coleman and Cherry to attend the Summer 1959 Lenox School of Jazz in Connecticut. Percy Heath consented to help Coleman complete his new album.
Back in L.A., Coleman, Cherry, Heath and Manne recorded six tunes on March 9–10, 1959. The absence of a piano did not entirely untether the grounding that Heath and Manne provided, but on one tune especially, “Tears Inside”, Percy Heath follows the meandering path that Coleman leads, rather than holding to a conventional harmonic structure.
Coleman was emerging from the shadow of Charlie Parker. The majority of the tunes on “Tomorrow” are played at mid-tempo rather than the fast bebop pace of “Something Else!!!!”, and the compositions are straining against the strictures of fixed chord progressions. Coleman’s own playing is more soulful and unselfconscious; his phrases move effortlessly from impulse to expression. His playing in “Mind and Time” and “Compassion”, like the titles of the pieces, encapsulates the moods he is now able to convey. He has grown fully into a unique voice on the alto saxophone.
In all four 1959 recording sessions, engineer Roy DuNann captured the sound of the group in vivid detail. Shelly Manne’s drums sound warm and full, his snare hits propulsive. Red Mitchell and Percy Heath’s instruments are clearly distinct; even if you didn’t know which one was playing, you could hear the differences in their instrumental timbres. Coleman and Cherry are recorded close to the microphones, with a sheen of plate reverb that positions them in the stereo mix with added depth.
Bernie Grundman's first-rate remastering makes this one of the best-sounding transfers of any jazz album recorded in the period that I’ve had the pleasure to hear. It belongs alongside Contemporary’s best albums, including the audiophile perennial favorite Sonny Rollins: Way Out West.
This SACD is unreservedly recommended.
Copyright © 2023 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net
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Comment by Athenaeus - August 8, 2022 (1 of 5)
This is interesting. It seems we have a new company that will be releasing SACDs! Doesn't happen every day.
They're called Craft Recordings and, based on what I found on their webpage, they reissue classic albums that are part of Concord Records' catalogue.
Comment by Mark Werlin - August 11, 2022 (2 of 5)
From their website:
"Craft Recordings is the catalog label team for Concord Recorded Music. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include Concord Records, Fania, Fantasy, Fearless, Milestone, Musart, Nitro, Prestige, Riverside, Rounder, Specialty, Stax, Sugar Hill, Vanguard, Vee-Jay and Victory Records, among many others."
Craft has been remastering and reissuing back catalog in LP, CD and download formats. Craft's Coltrane '58: The Prestige Recordings 24/192 downloads are to my ears the best-sounding digital versions of those albums (presented in the original session order).
I was pleasantly surprised that they had committed to this group of remasters on SACD: https://craftrecordings.com/collections/sacd
The six Contemporary Records jazz SACDs were remastered from analogue tapes by Bernie Grundman Mastering, direct to LP, 24/192, and DSD for SACD release. The Bill Evans SACD was remastered using Plangent Processes, a proprietary tape head and DSP system that digitally corrects tape wow and flutter.
Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - September 21, 2022 (3 of 5)
Has anyone actually managed to purchase this? Not available anywhere except on the Craft Recordings home site, but there's not release date indicate even though purchase appears possible even now. Thanks.
Comment by breydon_music - September 23, 2022 (4 of 5)
Please see my response to your note on the Bill Evans disc listing - both the Colemans are also available, and in the U K at any rate you can buy them together for a special price.
Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - September 26, 2022 (5 of 5)
Thanks, Breydon Music; I replied there.