Ornette Coleman

Whom Do You Work For?

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The cottage industry in Ornette Coleman live recordings from European tours seems to be shifting its time frame from the David Izenzon/Charles Moffett/Golden Circle era in the '60s to the under-recorded quartet of Dewey Redman/Ed Blackwell/Charlie Haden unit from the early '70s. Whom Do You Work For? doesn't have great sound quality -- Haden's bass suffering the most as usual, but that's not an automatic deal-breaker, anyway, when weighing the worth of bootleg or private recordings for historical interest. The fact that there are no liner notes and Dewey Redman is credited for trumpet, though, is a telling tip-off that this CD is assuredly not the work of devoted Coleman diehards. It's also far from prime Coleman, although the opening "Street Woman" is the best and most cohesive performance, with Redman soloing first and intertwining his tenor lines around Coleman during their tandem passages. But Blackwell is racing along at triple espresso speed, highly unusual for him, and problems start to surface in "Song for Che" with a disjointed Redman very out of sorts underneath Coleman -- it almost sounds like he doesn't know the song. Haden's bass solo likewise falls in and out of focus, alternating between beautifully melodic sections and other aimless segments where he loses the thread, and a Blackwell drum cannonade triggers a finale that peters out with very hesitant horns.

By the title track, the frenetics have proven fully contagious as Redman goes off in outside scream mode on tenor, including brief bits where he sounds like he's literally talking through his reed. "Rock the Clock" starts by switching the frenzy to Coleman on trumpet, Redman on musette, and Blackwell still stuck in full-on push mode, but actually turns interesting for a brief bit when Coleman jumps to violin (using what sounds like a wah-wah pedal) and Redman to tenor, where he gets more coherent filling the sonic mid-range. A return to the trumpet/musette combo brings back the frenzied flurries and "Written Word" closes with more of the same rushed muddle that never seems to find a comfortable lock, the only novelty being Haden's arco bass (if that's not Coleman's violin, or a combination of the two). For whatever reason, the musicians don't sound like they're playing with or off one another at all during this performance, something pretty startling for Coleman and company when you think about it, if not downright antithetical to his whole approach. But the Belgrade Concert released in 1999 has the exact same set list, comparable if not better sound, and much stronger performances from the same late 1971 tour and the 2007 vintage Live in Paris 1971 is the gem, both sound and music-wise, of the of the late 1971 tour performances. Whom Do You Work For? is the least essential of the three, and best left for completists.

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