23 March 2009

Can Wynton Be Free?

Earlier this week, Howard Mandel discussed the upcoming season of Jazz At Lincoln Center, which includes a performance by Ornette Coleman's quartet. As you can imagine, some observers are enthusiastic that a major partisan in the jazz wars has embraced one of the major figures and influences of the opposing camp.

In the same post, Mandel embedded a YouTube of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing an arrangement of Coleman's tune "Free," first recorded in 1960 on Change of the Century. The arrangement (which is uncredited on YouTube, but presumably was written by one of the band's members at the time) is interesting enough, but what shocked me was the solo by Marsalis on trumpet. In short, he plays outside the changes with authority. Here's the video:

Wynton's solo does justice to Don Cherry. Though he plays with tonality, his solo is remarkably free and well-conceived. I admit to being a bit taken-aback by the solo. Though I wouldn't have expected him to impose a more familiar structure onto the tune, I also was not expecting him to produce a free jazz solo of that quality. But Wynton is a virtuoso, and you know he has studied Ornette. So perhaps it is not surprising that he could play the tune so well. Even so, nice solo.

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