JAZZ / Regeneration games: Phil Johnson on the Ornette Coleman Quartet at the RFH
Monday 08 November 1993
Perhaps he was registering a protest. Certainly, Moffett performed with a conventional virtuosity that was sometimes at odds with the slightly shambolic air of the usual Coleman small-group sound. A large man who can make the big bass fiddle look cello-sized, Moffett thumb-slapped it like a bass guitar, bowed and scraped as much as he plucked and even used a number of nifty pedals to add reverb and digital delay effects. When in one long solo he improvised against the recorded pulse of his own instrument, Moffett ended up leaving Coleman playing at a quarter of the volume of his bassist, jeopardising the delicate balance of the music. Drummer Denardo Coleman - Ornette's son - continually picked up Moffett's lead with reggae rimshots while Cherry coughed and wheezed through his horn as if attempting to bring the music back in time to its now 35-year-old beginnings.
Coleman carried on regardless, his every note filled with an unerring sense of himself and his music. When he soloed with trumpet and violin, the change of instrument was less noticeable than the remarkable similarity of approach he brings to everything he does.
Despite the occasional mismatch of old and young, the concert sometimes reached monumental peaks of collective improvisation. Coleman is perhaps the greatest intuitive musical genius of the century, distilling through the odd, skewed phrases of his plastic saxophone a joy, a delight and a humanity that must once have attended the notes of Paganini. The suit, needless to say, had a pretty good game too.
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