Ornette Coleman: Tomorrow Is The Question

Yet another vinyl reissue of the altoist's well-known 1959 album, with drum-pro Shelly Manne's versatility a highlight


This was Ornette’s second LP, recorded just before his first for Atlantic the same year. The story goes that Les Koenig of Contemporary unselfishly released him to Atlantic where he could get better distribution and album sales.

The title tune is a bright, bouncy selection to kick off the programme. Ornette and Cherry solo with verve. Tears Inside is a 12-bar blues in D flat which is meat and drink to Coleman. His solo is slightly melancholy, but the bounce is still there, at a slower tempo. Ornette digs into the blues here at length. Highlights are his solo and the almost telepathic ensemble blend with trumpeter Cherry.

Mind And Time is a 10-bar theme which Ornette and Cherry explore at length in unusual but satisfying solos. Compassion is a medium-tempo exercise with Percy Heath showing his ability to provide a roving, constantly alert bass line. As he was the first to put it on record, perhaps he indicated a way of bass playing for Coleman that Charlie Haden picked up on later.

This is, I think, a better album overall than Ornette’s first for Contemporary, Something Else!!!! That said, it is less of a typical Coleman LP than the earlier one. That one had piano, which Ornette was never happy about, although it didn’t seem to faze him. Here he has three seasoned rhythm-section musicians, who function well in unfamiliar territory. Red Mitchell plays well but is still in conventional hard-bop mode. Heath sounds happy in his new role although the surprise is Shelly Manne. Able to fit into any jazz situation it seems, Manne is loose and flexible all through this set. His solo is a gem of broken rhythms and unlikely patterns that sounds right in this programme.

Lorraine, with its tempo changes and changing mood swings is perhaps the standout track. It also has that Manne drum solo. Turnaround is also very good, a basic blues again, where Ornette and Cherry are in their comfort zones from start to finish.

Tomorrow Is The Question; Tears Inside; Mind And Time; Compassion; Giggin’; Rejoicing; Lorraine; Turnaround; Endless (42.34)
Collectively, Coleman (as); Don Cherry (t); Percy Heath, Red Mitchell (b); Shelly Manne (d). Los Angeles, 16 January 1959.
Contemporary/Craft CR00596