Editors’ Notes After expanding to an eight-piece lineup for the historic Free Jazz, Ornette Coleman returned to the smaller quartet of his previous Atlantic albums on Ornette! in early 1961. Don Cherry remained on pocket trumpet and Ed Blackwell on drums, but in the bass chair came a major shift: Scott LaFaro, famed for his work with the more mainstream (but also highly innovative) Bill Evans Trio, took over for the great Charlie Haden. LaFaro and Haden had paired up on the Free Jazz session, but Ornette! found LaFaro taking a deeper dive into Coleman’s universe all by himself. Just six months later he was gone, killed in an auto accident at age 25.

The titles on Ornette! are abbreviations borrowed from the work of Sigmund Freud. Both “W.R.U.” (“Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious”) and “C. & D.” (“Civilization and Its Discontents”) are longer than the average album track, perhaps a glimpse into the more open-ended playing the band was doing live. LaFaro’s melodic unison with the horns at the start of “W.R.U.” is notable (Haden typically did not double fast melodies in this way). “T. & T.” (“Totem and Taboo”) is a textbook illustration of Blackwell’s unique sense of groove, while “R.P.D.D.” (“Relation of the Poet to Day Dreaming”) captures some of Coleman’s most intriguing alto articulation in a lengthy solo.

“Proof Readers,” an unreleased outtake from the same day, is another long midtempo piece with a juicy LaFaro solo toward the end. Coleman recorded another piece that day, not included here, called “The Alchemy of Scott LaFaro,” which could practically serve as a subtitle for Ornette!. It might not be Coleman’s most talked-about album, but Ornette! looms large in the all-too-short LaFaro discography.


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