Ornette Coleman

The Lenox Jazz School Concert: August 29, 1959

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In 2009, FreeFactory released a 50-year commemorative album of modern music recorded live in Lenox, Massachusetts on August 29, 1959. The concert was a benefit for the Lenox School of Jazz, a program for creative musicians that took place each summer from 1957-1960 and was established by pianist and composer John Lewis, founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, at a time when he was serving as musical director for the Monterey Jazz Festivals. The Lenox School of Jazz was unusually progressive in that the faculty consisted mainly of established composers and improvisers along with noteworthy innovators. The first two tracks are credited to the Max Roach-John Lewis Ensemble, in which saxophonist Ornette Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry interacted with yet-to-be-recognized artists like 21-year-old pianist Steve Kuhn, who worked with trumpeter Kenny Dorham during this period. Intriguingly, the pianist who played with Dorham's octet at this event was Ran Blake, who was destined for a lengthy career as one of the music's monumentally inspired introverts. Dorham's steamy hard bop "D.C. Special" stems directly from his earlier work with Charlie Parker and Art Blakey, as well as the Max Roach Quintet with which he had worked from 1956 to 1958. (Among Dorham's other notable accomplishments in 1959 was his appearance in two French films: Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Un Temoin Dans la Ville.)

With admirable fortitude, the Bill Evans/Jim Hall/Connie Kay Ensemble may be heard negotiating the intricate changes of "Monk's Sphere" and "Jingles." These works, along with "The Sphinx" and "Inn Tube," as well as "Lone Ranger and the Great Horace Silver" as played by the Gunther Schuller Ensemble may serve as a prologue to the 1960 Atlantic album Jazz Abstractions, a John Lewis-produced compendium of Schuller & Hall compositions that is most memorable for having brought Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman together over a compelling set of Monk variations. Aside from the first two titles, Ornette's only recorded appearances at the Lenox benefit in 1959 are tracks 9-11, presented by the Herb Pomeroy Ensemble which included young Ian Underwood, a sax and flute player who in the late '60s would enlist with Frank Zappa as a member of the Mothers of Invention. Underwood is also heard with multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Giuffre on tracks 6 and 7. Another surprise cameo in this mixed bag of modern delights is clarinetist Perry Robinson, who plays with the Schuller group on track 8. FreeFactory's CD-debut reissue of the Lenox Jazz School Concert of 1959 closes with four bonus tracks recorded live at the Metropole Jazz Club in Oslo, Norway in January 1964 by the Kenny Dorham Quartet. This comparatively relaxed material directly predates his collaborations with saxophonist Joe Henderson.

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