Personnel: Ornette Coleman (alto saxophone); Don Cherry (pocket trumpet); Scott LaFaro (bass); Ed Blackwell (drums).
Recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, New York, New York on January 31, 1961. Originally released on Atlantic (1378). Includes liner notes by Nat Hentoff and Gunther Schuller.
Originally issued in 1961 on Atlantic Records, ORNETTE! (recorded shortly after the revolutionary FREE JAZZ album) finds Ornette Coleman and company at the peak of their powers. Trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Ed Blackwell are on board--both would continue playing with Coleman off and on for decades to come--but the wild card here is the legendary bassist Scott LaFaro, who earned his reputation with the equally innovative (albeit quieter) Bill Evans Trio, here taking the place of Coleman's then-regular bassist Charlie Haden. LaFaro's style is more hard-driving (in the traditional, hard-bop sense) than Haden's warm, buoyant approach, inspiring the soloists to feverish heights. Though considered very "avant-garde" at the time, Coleman's solos crackle with the essence of the blues, while Cherry plays with a brassy, rippling tone, and Blackwell's crisp, propulsive drumming is rich with rhythmic echoes of New Orleans and the Caribbean. Vibrant and immediate, ORNETTE! is a classic in Coleman's voluminous recorded history.