Ornette Coleman, Meltdown Festival, Southbank Centre, London

3.00

Ambling onstage in sparkly silver suit and lime-green shirt, Ornette Coleman displays the disregard for prevailing tastes and fashions that has shocked jazz fans for half a century and more. Okay, inventing Free Jazz was one thing – but lime green and silver? What kind of way is this for a man on the cusp of 80 to dress?

As it happens, the clash of colours – all the more startling when Coleman's famous white plastic alto-sax joins the palette – is effectively a visual analogue of his musical method, constantly seeking out hitherto unheard sound combinations and somehow making them work together. Tonight's show offers "Reflections of the Shape of Jazz to Come", threads and footnotes to his groundbreaking 1959 album, performed with his usual trio of two bassists – a double bass providing low thrummings and bowed passages, while the electric bass chips in chords and runs, like a combined rhythm and lead guitar – and son Denardo, a polyrhythmic blur of industry driving even the most entangled skeins of sound along.

The first few pieces start abruptly, take the least predictable turns, often incorporating passages of complex unison figures, and end just as abruptly. Typically, the turbulent activity set up by the three-man rhythm section serves as a kind of flood-surge, atop of which Coleman's sax and trumpet lines bob and weave. Some tunes are like maths puzzles, a form of musical higher calculus that occasionally drifts too far from fun for my taste: at times, it seems like a series of attempts to make the tangential fit into the scheme of whatever it is that unifies a particular piece.

For a couple, including one based on the Prelude to Bach's G Major Cello Suite, the double bassist Tony Falanga bows his bass, fretting high up the neck to derive a cello tone, while Coleman adds a violin part before switching back to sax to share a sort of semi-classical cacophonous lament.

For the latter part of the show, unannounced guests join the quartet: first, the omni-talented guitarist Bill Frisell plays along for a few numbers, including a lovely, languid blues lope, then Patti Smith arrives to ruminate about Sumerian hieroglyphics, "the word" and non-verbal communication on "In All Languages", which seems to segue straight into another piece. "Think we're done? We're never done!" declares Smith, an observation that takes on an ironic slant when the eight-strong support act The Master Musicians of Jajouka file on, setting up a double-reed drone of four shawm or shenai, over which Coleman essays trumpet and sax phrases discernible as a version of his "Lonely Woman".

Although the four Jajouka percussionists at first seem uncertain of the precise rhythm – and given Denardo's animated flurries, who could blame them? – they eventually settle into one of their typical hypnotic grooves. Yet their monotone drone and simple beat all but drowns out any interactive rapprochement with the jazz combo. Not only that, but like some maverick clockwork device, once started, the Jajouka musicians don't seem to have any means of stopping until they've wound down, thwarting the other musicians' several attempts to arrive at some satisfying conclusion, until after about a quarter of an hour, Ornette manages to catch the eye of their leader, Bachir Attar, who instigates a rapid dissolve of their pulsing, other-worldly drone.

The swiftness with which Coleman then ends the piece gives clear indication of the sense of relief flooding not just over the audience but over the performers too. The quintet's set-closing dash through the nagging, childlike melody of Ornette's "Dancing in My Head" likewise suggests the euphoria of players demob-happy at being released from some restrictive prison of rhythm. All in all, an enthusiastic, energising evening, albeit ultimately a little exhausting.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living