Bleat Poet

Three reissued fusion flops from the 1970s give free-jazz giant Ornette Coleman back to the freaks

To this day, Coleman remains the avant-garde player that moldy figs will accept most easily, so compellingly plaintive is the Texas bluesiness on his keening alto. Even Wynton Marsalis, whose affection for free jazz parallels the Cuban émigré community's feelings for Janet Reno, has offered more than grudging praise. But Coleman's celebrated, soulful leanings are probably the least interesting aspect of his career. (The same goes for Bird and Hendrix, too, as long as we're on the subject.) After all, there are plenty of horn players who can approximate the blues--it's usually the first thing one is taught to do. It is Coleman's application of a bluesman's ear to freaky pursuits--his compositional break with jazz preconceptions--that will strike him in iron, and fuse him to our core.

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