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Complete Science Fiction Sessions Extra tracks, Original recording remastered

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Audio CD, Extra tracks, Original recording remastered, May 2, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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This two-CD set combines a pair of Ornette Coleman's Columbia LPs, Science Fiction and Broken Shadows, and adds three tracks--a new piece, an alternate take, and an alternate mix. Most of the material comes from sessions in September 1971, when Coleman surrounded himself with old associates--including the group with which he'd made his startling New York debut a dozen years earlier: trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins. Also along were tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, drummer Ed Blackwell, and trumpeter Bobby Bradford, another longtime associate. The seven musicians recorded as two distinct quartets, as a quintet with Bradford, and as a septet, while other guests contributed to still more permutations. All the musicians were deeply immersed in Coleman's musical language: the complex, sometimes jagged tunes; the emotional directness that drew on the wellspring of the blues; the sprung rhythms and melodic freedom that had first defined the free-jazz movement.

The set's first CD consists largely of quartet and quintet pieces. There are new groupings that take new directions, such as two evocative songs with the gifted Indian vocalist Asha Puthi, accompanied by a septet with two classical trumpeters and Higgins on tympani. And on "Science Fiction," the band breathes seething chaos around the poet David Henderson's voice. Much of the second CD concentrates on the septet, a group that inevitably invokes Coleman's most radical grouping, the "double quartet" that recorded Free Jazz in 1960, with five of the original members present. The pieces here are shorter, with more clearly defined compositional materials, but the collective improvisations are still bracing and the rhythmic dialogues often stunning. While Cherry and Coleman no longer worked together regularly, they shared a vision and empathy unique in jazz, and the shifting densities and internal meters of "Elizabeth" are something to behold. "Good Girl Blues" and "Is It Forever" catch Coleman layering and alternating different components--Kansas City blues, swing, bop, free, and classical--to create unique musical spaces. This is one of Coleman's strangest groupings, with his regular band joined by blues singer Webster Armstrong, guitarist Jim Hall, hard-bop pianist Cedar Walton, and a woodwind quintet. This is essential hearing, varied and intriguing music from one of the greatest architects, composers, and improvisers in the history of jazz. Stuart Broomer


Disc: 1
1. What Reason Could I Give?
2. Civilization Day
3. Street Woman
4. Science Fiction
5. Rock the Clock
6. All My Life
7. Law Years
8. The Jungle Is a Skyscraper
9. School Work
10. Country Town Blues
See all 12 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Happy House
2. Elizabeth
3. Written Word [#][*]
4. Broken Shadows
5. Rubber Gloves
6. Good Girl Blues
7. Is It Forever?

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 2, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: 1971
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Extra tracks, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00004T0PM
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,946 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 6, 2000
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
At last! SCIENCE FICTION on CD -- 24-bit mapped, and given the full Mosaic-style treatment by Michael Cuscuna. Included are 2 alternate takes and 1 never before released track from the original 1971 sessions, along with all the material from those sessions originally released in 1982 as BROKEN SHADOWS.

SCIENCE FICTION is the first Ornette record I heard, in 1975, and I still love it. Most of it sounds quite like the great Atlantic recordings of 1959-62, with Charlie Haden on bass, either Ed Blackwell or Billy Higgins on drums, and Don Cherry or Bobby Bradford on trumpet (and all 5 on some tracks). Dewey Redman, in Ornette's working band of the time, also plays on many of the tracks.

The twist is that there are several vocal tracks -- the 2 with Asha Puthli, the female pop/classical singer from Bombay, are stunningly beautiful. (Some critics did not approve, but they weren't listening!) The title track features the poet David Henderson, and it truly sounds like Science Fiction. Two more vocal tracks, from BROKEN SHADOWS, are more conventional, and frankly can be safely skipped. A highlight of the set is "Law Years," one of Ornette's best known and often covered compositions (by Old and New Dreams and Ken Vandermark, among others).

The variety of styles and textures made the original SCIENCE FICTION, to me, Ornette's greatest accomplishment as a cohesive album. (Be aware that many critics disagreed.) There is a wrenching intensity to every track on the original album, the first 8 of the 19 collected here, making a statement greater than the sum of the individual pieces, a testimony to Ornette's compositional vision.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 2000
Format: Audio CD
When all is said and done, these will go down as some of Ornette's greatest works. By the time he did these, he was very tight with Cherry, Haden, Higgins, Blackwell, and Redman so anything he did with those musicians was outstanding.
Some of the cuts (Civilization Day, Street Woman, Law Years, Country Town Blues) more or less follow the Atlantic model (see "Beauty is a Rare Thing")
There also are two very beautiful songs (What Reason Could I Give and All My Life) sung by a fabulous Indian singer (who later appeared on a recording by Henry Threadgill), and some more densely layered compositions (Rock the Clock, Science Fiction, Jungle Is A Skyscraper) with sizzling energy that captures the times they were recorded in.
There may be a few selections which are half-baked, but this is a box set whose purpose is to document a series of sessions.
Don't miss this masterpiece!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Josh Z. Bonder on December 9, 2005
Format: Audio CD
While other reviewers have mentioned that it would be useful to hear earlier Ornette albums to have some frame of reference for this one, it's the first Coleman album I ever heard: That said, I became absolutely immersed in it. The variation created by using so many different group configurations, keeps proceedings consistently strong and simultaneously varied. The tracks featuring the Indian vocalist are absolutely breathtaking, and Coleman's playing on these albums is at once obtuse and very catchy. While this music may be complex, it still manages to retain accessibility and warmth. This is the Coleman album I will keep coming back to.

Since writing my original review of this album, I have acquired "Beauty is a Rare Thing". While I would say that most of that material is somewhat more "essential" than the Complete Science Fiction Sessions, I still stand by my claim that this is as good an introduction as any. Other great starting points would be Change of the Century, The Shape of Jazz to Come, or the aforementioned boxed set if you're willing to take the plunge. You'll probably want to anyways once you get your feet wet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Walter H. Combs on September 26, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ornette Coleman is one of the greatest innovators in the history of 20th century music, but he requires close listening and a great ear. His ``Free Jazz'' is not the best place to understand what he and his collaborators are doing - simultaneously improvising different solos based on the melody Coleman composes without harmonic chordal structures to base their solos on - but with ``Science Fiction'' his approach is easy to follow, and rich with melodic invention. This isn't for smooth jazz fans who like it easy and mellow, but for listeners willing to meet the music's demands, this album is not only a great introduction to Coleman, but a richly rewarding listening adventure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jay Baker on July 9, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I add another 5 star review; I wish I could give it more. I won't speak to the historical context and significance of these sets, others have done that. I limit my review to the visceral impact of listening. Coleman and the whole band are absolutely brilliant throughout. Lyrical, surprising (of course), laying it down jamming - this record really goes. All the players excel on these recordings at solos and there is no denying what is going on there. The ensemble playing really made an impression on me though.

I just wish I had discovered this material 20 years ago.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dennis W. Wong on October 24, 2008
Format: MP3 Music
In one day, several jazz artists were eliminated from the Columbia label: Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman. The last artist axed was pretty despicable since he only recorded 2 albums for the label: "Science Fiction" and "Broken Shadows" (not counting "Skies of America" which was an orchestrial effort). Now for all of us Ornette fans we're able to relish both these sessions on a 2 disc set, "The Science Fiction Sessions". Along with some unissued tracks, Ornette re-unites with his sidemen, past and present, like Dewey Redman, Billy Higgins, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, Bobby Bradford, Don Cherry,etc. Coupled with 2 soloist, Africain American and Indian, Coleman entrances us with his unique melodies and improvisations. Some of the tracks like "School Days" were featured in the Sean Connery movie, "Finding Forrester".
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