Ornette Coleman is most often associated with his numerous quartets, but his Blue Note debut found him exploring the possibilities of the trio configuration. At the Golden Circle Stockholm Volume One is the first half of that journey into addition by subtraction; it not only inaugurates the highpoint of Coleman’s Blue Note run, it also stands amongst the very greatest work the trailblazing saxophonist has recorded.
The end of the 1980s was swiftly approaching, and the jury was still out on the music of Ornette Coleman. The temporary reign of compact discs was well underway, and it gradually became easier to actually hear (instead of just read about) the sounds that so divided jazz at the dawn of its most tumultuous decade. However, for my first two Coleman purchases I had to settle for cassettes. Until the CD reissues of Ornette’s Atlantic efforts began showing up in the racks (or more appropriately put, started getting listed in catalogs as being available for purchase), hearing the man’s groundbreaking early material was a struggle. Even the ‘70s fusion work with Prime Time and his ‘80s albums were difficult to locate.
What’s more, none of the meager number of older jazz heads I’d become acquainted with at that point appreciated him; when the subject arose a few were downright dismissive. And dialing the handful of jazz radio programs that my stereo tuner managed to pick up in the wee hours of the AM proved just as futile.
I’ll never forget the short but pleasant conversation I had with one of those DJs, the voice of the gent on the other end of the line informing me that he loved Coleman but had sworn off playing him due to the swarm of angry calls he’d receive in response. So deep was the animosity over a divergence from and perceived threat to the post-bop standard that nearly 30 years later merely offering it on the radio brought an influx of opprobrium via the telephone.