Dixieland Digs Ornette


With Ornette Coleman, whichever tempo an interpreter chooses is wrong, because there’s never just one. But at “Dixieland Digs Ornette,” polyphony came to the rescue. The head arrangements danced, and the solos jumped with Coleman’s internal rhymes. Every great concert has a turning point, and here it came early, when Roswell Rudd—the seminal free-jazz trombonist, but a tailgater at heart—treated Coleman’s ballad “Just for You” to a series of elegant harmonic runs interspersed with Godzilla roars. From that point on, everything was magic. Greg Cohen, Coleman’s current bassist, ran, did not walk, the way Charlie Haden used to; Herlin Riley tapped out New Orleans cross-rhythms as complex as Ed Blackwell’s; and Scott Robinson, switching between clarinet and saxophones, took “When Will the Blues Leave” outside without screaming. Following intermission, the same Wynton Marsalis whose orchestra made a botch of Coleman at Lincoln Center in February (billed here as “E. Dankworth”) swapped thunderbolts with Rudd on “Peace” and interpreted “Sadness,” Coleman’s solo and all, as he might a Mozart concerto—as a piece of music so lovely and complete that further elaboration was unthinkable. It was a relief to hear Marsalis in a setting where his pedantry couldn’t get the best of him. He didn’t even have to lecture the audience on the wonderfulness of what it was hearing. WKCR’s Phil Schaap took care of that. But hats off to Schaap for dreaming up this unlikely harmolodic convergence.