Ornette Coleman and Prime Time
Opening the Caravan of Dreams
Caravan of Dreams : 1985
OC, saxophone, trumpet, violin; Bern Nix, guitar; Charles Ellerbee, guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass; Albert MacDowell, bass; Denardo Coleman, drums; Sabir Kamal, drums, perc.
The first time I saw Ornette Coleman, he was fronting his harmolodic funk ensemble Prime Time, a group savvier jazz friends warned me was a total â??sell out.â? It was 1990 and Ornette had moved far beyond his original acoustic quartet. He now used electric guitars and played grooves, of a sort. I was told the music would sound slick and commercial, but what I heard was uncompromisingly dense, completely fluid, and incredibly tight and funky, like 500 angels breakdancing on the head of a pin. Something a lot like these tunes.
Some of Prime Timeâ??s albums from the late â??80s and early â??90s do suffer slightly from overly glossy production, which is why Opening the Caravan of Dreams is such a treasure. Recorded live in 1983, it cuts away anything extraneous and showcases the band in their full blazing glory. Prime Timeâ??s debut, Dancing in Your Head, may be more monumental, and Body Meta might have more brilliant corners (both from 1976), but by the time of Caravan the group had been together for almost seven years and honed their musicÂ to a fiercely fine edge. Which is why to me it stands as this groupâ??s single best album. [CJC]
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The disc is so good, in fact, we had some trouble making selections. Regarding these two superlative cuts:
â??Sex Spyâ?: Title tune from the soundtrack to a little-known â??70s softcore joint starring Jayne Kennedy, Seka, and Lee Majors, directed by Melvin van Peebles, Peter Bogdanovich (providing the background sleaze), and Robert Downey Sr. Rhythm section captures that falling-down-a-flight-of-stairs funkiness unique to 1983.
â??Computeâ?: Starts very quietly; do not adjust your set. A song so hot it not only triumphs over adversity (in the form of an early drum solo â?? ack!), not only makes good use out of random bursts of synthetic, Zaxxon-like noise, it incorporates Ornette soloing on three different instruments —Â he literally fiddlesÂ while the band burns down the stage. And you can dance to it.
Interestingly, bassist Al MacDowell turned up as a member of the group Ornette brought to Carnegie Hall last month, as part of the JVC festival. For a taste of what that unusual ensemble sounded like, stay tunedâ?¦
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As always, check out ourÂ record store of choice, Downtown Music Gallery, for their unbeatable selection of rare free jazz. Request specific titles and you never know what they’ll comeÂ up with. Tell ‘em Destination: Out sent you.