September 1st is always a strange day in Boston. Many residents will find any excuse to be out of town that day. People of all ages and occupations take impromptu vacations, or call in sick to work, or pack into overcrowded trains rather than commute by car. Police are out in force all over the city. There’s a tension that hangs in the air like caustic smoke.
September 1st is the day that a large proportion of Boston’s 200,000 college students move from one apartment to another. It almost seems like the city is turning itself inside out. From dawn until well after midnight, hallways and stairwells teem with people carrying clothes and furniture. The streets are dammed by double- and triple-parked vehicles. Every year a handful of inexperienced movers manage to get their moving trucks hopelessly wedged in narrow alleyways and under low bridges. The city’s labyrinthine road system traps unsuspecting drivers in a Gordian traffic knot. Commerce and transportation grind to a halt. Nerves fray. Fists fly over parking spots and fender benders.
I like to stay home and read a book on September 1st. If I want a taste of chaos, I just listen to Ornette and Prime Time.
It used to be said about March that it comes “in like a lion and out like a lamb”. But more often than not this time of year finds us stuck with more blustery cold weather, and March seems to be a lion through and through. Today, as we wait for the winter blues to leave, I’m featuring a long blues solo by one of the so-called “young lions” of jazz.
On Kenny Kirkland’s eponymous 1991 album, the pianist pays tribute to some of the great musicians who influenced his style, including Ornette Coleman. Like some of Ornette’s best sidemen, Kenny lays out for much of the sax solo, letting the alto player meander through blues riffs in many different keys, unencumbered by any harmonic “suggestion” from the piano.
But who is that alto player? The liner notes say his name is Roderick Ward, but it’s telling that such a talented player only appears on one album. Astute listeners may suspect that Mr. Ward is none other than Branford Marsalis, already mentioned in the liner notes as playing tenor and soprano saxes. Why his “alto alter ego” gets an album credit is anyone’s guess, but Roderick Ward can be proud of his tiny body of work.
When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) concert
When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) – Alto Sax
Another classic Ornette Coleman tune.
Another from Ornette’s At the Golden Circle.
Faces and Places
This Ornette tune is from his At the Golden Circle album, recorded in 1965 in Stockholm with his under-appreciated trio featuring David Izenzon and Charles Moffett.
Don’t forget to modulate to the faster tempo each time you play the head.
This week I’ll be sharing a triple feature of Ornette Coleman melodies, the first taken from the Complete Science Fiction Sessions.