Ornette Coleman Quintet - Complete Live At The Hillcrest Club

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Gambit Records 69272        ***
Don Cherry (t), Ornette Coleman (as), Paul Bley (p), Charlie Haden (b) and Billy Higgins (d). Rec. 1958

This originally appeared on vinyl in the early 1970s under Paul Bley’s name. I could be wrong but I think he had the tapes and might have got the gig too, although it would seem that the band was leaderless as announced. From that point of view, re-titling it as a Coleman album is probably as accurate as any other nomination.
Ornette Coleman Quintet - Complete Live At The Hillcrest Club
The recording dates from October 1958, more than half a year after Ornette recorded Something Else! For Contemporary, again with Cherry and Higgins but with Don Payne on bass and Walter Norris on piano, and four months before Tomorrow Is The Question!, his first piano-less quartet recording, for the same label and with Shelly Manne on drums. The Hillcrest set repertoire includes ‘The Blessing’ and ‘When Will The Blues Leave?’ from Something Else! but fleshes things out with ‘How Deep Is The Ocean’, Roy Eldridge’s ‘I Remember Harlem’ and Parker’s ‘Klactoveesedstene’.

There is also a preview version of ‘Ramblin’’, a year before its eventual waxing for Atlantic, and a fragment of another Coleman tune, ‘Crossroads’, that Bley did a cover version of in 1965. The date is not well recorded, with Bley’s piano losing out the most, but he does fit in musically with what’s going on around him and solos strongly. Ornette reveals his Charlie Parker roots on ‘Klacto’, reproducing Parker licks and showing he knew his bebop, even if his theme statements remain pure Ornette for timing and pitch. Cherry, on ‘How Deep is The Ocean’, shows he has closely studied Clifford Brown and taken more than a passing interest in Kenny Dorham. So, a valuable historical document for Coleman, Bley and Cherry fans and one marred only by the reversal of ‘When Will The Blues Leave’ and ‘Ramblin’’ in the song listings and by a disc that got stuck mid-way through the theme statement for ‘Crossroads’. A bit like the TV series, when you come to think of it.

Keith Shadwick


This review is taken from Jazzwise Issue #112, to read the most comprehensive review section of jazz and beyond and receive a  Free CD, subscribe here