8 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

This 1983 album featuring three Ornette Coleman songs tells us two things. First, it’s altogether apt that guitarist Pat Metheny is joined by bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins, both Coleman alumni. And secondly, unlike the Pat Metheny Group fusion material (which is also quite good), this collection of songs is more firmly based in edgy jazz interplay. Whether it’s the covers (ironically, “Lonely Woman” is the Horace Silver version instead of the Coleman classic) or Metheny originals, there's a distinct chemistry where Haden functions as the swingman between his years with the always-understated Higgins and his voluminous folk-jazz excursions with Metheny. He solos in his usual lyrical manner on “Blues for Pat” (which he wrote) and adds some ambient bass tones to “Waiting for an Answer” (which he cowrote). Metheny straps on the synthesizer guitar for much of the album's second half, and while “Story from a Stranger” has a nice melodic core, things get pretty wild on “The Calling.” Not the acknowledged masterpiece from this era, this is still worthy of considerable attention.

EDITORS’ NOTES

This 1983 album featuring three Ornette Coleman songs tells us two things. First, it’s altogether apt that guitarist Pat Metheny is joined by bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins, both Coleman alumni. And secondly, unlike the Pat Metheny Group fusion material (which is also quite good), this collection of songs is more firmly based in edgy jazz interplay. Whether it’s the covers (ironically, “Lonely Woman” is the Horace Silver version instead of the Coleman classic) or Metheny originals, there's a distinct chemistry where Haden functions as the swingman between his years with the always-understated Higgins and his voluminous folk-jazz excursions with Metheny. He solos in his usual lyrical manner on “Blues for Pat” (which he wrote) and adds some ambient bass tones to “Waiting for an Answer” (which he cowrote). Metheny straps on the synthesizer guitar for much of the album's second half, and while “Story from a Stranger” has a nice melodic core, things get pretty wild on “The Calling.” Not the acknowledged masterpiece from this era, this is still worthy of considerable attention.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

10 Ratings

Metheny

the_nightfly,

I was surprised to find that this recording has not received many reviews, so, being the Pat Metheny fan that I am, wanted to do my part in emphasizing the significance of this amazing recording to both Pat Metheny fans, as well as to jazz fans in general.

This album was made in 1983, at the time when CD's were just coming on the market, which happened to also be the same time that Pat Metheny's star was in a meteoric rise. This record was a significant departure from Pat's musical path at that time, which was rooted in the more electric/fusion direction of his group recordings, which had hooked me: the first group (white cover) album, then "Watercolors," then "OffRamp," then the amazing live "Travels," to this day one of my favorite records of any genre. So then he releases this record, and I remember at the time actually (shameful to say now) being somewhat disappointed after I first heard it. But, I was younger then, and more naive. Now I know better.

Pat made this record with two veteran jazz musicians, Billy Higgins on drums, and Charlie Haden on bass, in fine acoustic form on this record. (Signficantly, this rhythm section was known for their work with Ornette Coleman, a true pioneer in free form jazz, and a strong Metheny influence.) Now, Pat is PARTLY acoustic here, but also brings out his distinctive (really trademark) synclavier guitar sound that he had been using on the forementioned recordings, as well as the clean, warm tone from his hollow body Gibson. So, there is incredible variety on this record in terms of Pat's guitar work.

There are several Metheny compositions on the record, but roughly half of the tunes are Metheny's interpretations of his influences. The lead tune, "Lonely Woman," is a Horace Silver original, written at the inception of the bebop movement in jazz, mid-1950's. Pianist Silver is considered one of the founders of the bebop movement, so leading off with this tune is clearly a tribute. Pat's interpretation of this is somber in comparison to the original, and in its slow tempo, quite simply beautiful. The next several tunes, including "Tears Inside," "Humpty Dumpty," and "Rejoicing," are all Coleman originals but with fresh and in my opinion, more accessible, interpretations from Metheny. "Blues For Pat" is a catchy blues-inflected number with nice individual statements from the rhythm section. But, the piece-de-resistance on the record is "Story From A Stranger," a Metheny original which is as mesmerizing and stunning on the 47th listen as it is on the first. The record wraps with the Coleman-influenced "The Calling," in which the synclavier sound is in mostly free form mode, and for me, is the weak spot on an otherwise stellar record.

So, 27 years later, I now have an almost profound appreciation and admiration for what Pat Metheny did as a burgeoning 29 year-old jazz maestro. True genius. Treat yourself to this one.

Essential

mswmusic,

I have this on vinyl and now I can have one Pats' best on I-Tunes. Pat's acoustic works are very underrated. This recoring proves it. Billy Higgins!

About Billy Higgins

As a member of the groundbreaking Ornette Coleman-led quartet that launched the free jazz renaissance, Billy Higgins remains one of the most important and controversial drummers in music history. An uncommonly versatile and intuitive player, his nimble rhythmic patterns achieved a perfect balance between function and form, inspiring the great trumpeter Lee Morgan to remark "[Higgins] never overplays, but you always know he's there." Born October 11, 1936, in Los Angeles, Higgins began his career playing R&B, supporting headliners including Bo Diddley, Amos Milburn, and Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1953 he joined high school friend and trumpeter Don Cherry in the Jazz Messiahs, a group also featuring saxophonist James Clay; three years later, he began his session career, in the months to follow appearing on recording dates led by saxophonist Lucky Thompson and bassist Red Mitchell. Around this time, Higgins and Cherry met Coleman through mutual friend Clay. A virtual unknown, the Texas-born saxophonist was supporting himself with menial jobs while working diligently to hone a musical lexicon liberated from the restraints of conventional harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic structures. Both Higgins and Cherry soon joined Coleman's rehearsal group, which spent years woodshedding before finally securing its first live gigs in 1958, opening for Paul Bley at L.A.'s Hilcrest Club. Audiences were either angered or simply baffled by Coleman's radical sensibility, which he later dubbed "harmolodics," and with the 1958 release of his debut LP, Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman, the controversy spread throughout the jazz populace, dividing musicians, critics, and fans alike.

Higgins followed Coleman when he relocated the group to New York City in 1959 to begin a residency at the Five Spot Café. Love it or hate it, their music was the talk of the town, and with the addition of new bassist Charlie Haden, Coleman finally began to make concrete the sounds and structures he'd pursued for years. His 1959 Atlantic Records debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, remains a watershed album by any definition and a schism-creating turning point in the history of the avant-garde. The accolades now heaped on Coleman also launched his collaborators to prominence, and Higgins soon emerged as one of the most sought-after drummers in contemporary jazz, proving a master of both the hard bop sensibility still dominant throughout the jazz community as well as the more fluid and abstract approach of the new generation. When a 1961 drug bust stripped Higgins of his cabaret card, prompting his exit from Coleman's band, he focused on studio work, becoming the unofficial house drummer at Blue Note Records during the label's creative zenith. In the decade to come, Higgins appeared on seminal dates including Dexter Gordon's Go!, Jackie McLean's A Fickle Sonance, and Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder, proving time and again his consummate skill and flexibility; even after Liberty Records acquired Blue Note in 1967, he remained much in-demand, maintaining his position as the premier drummer of the avant-garde with contributions to landmark efforts including Archie Shepp's 1971 LP Attica Blues and Coleman's comeback effort, Science Fiction. Higgins was also a frequent collaborator of pianist Cedar Walton, and with bassist Bill Lee and trumpeter Bill Hardman led the big-band ensemble the Brass Company for several years during the early '70s.

After close to two decades on tour and in New York, Higgins settled back in Los Angeles in 1978. The following year he recorded his first-ever session as a leader, the Red label LP Soweto. Higgins recorded a few more headlining sessions in the years to follow but seemed to value most his role as a sideman, supporting saxophonist Joe Henderson and trombonist Slide Hampton during the first half of the 1980s. After appearing behind star and longtime collaborator Dexter Gordon in filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier's 1986 love letter to jazz, 'Round Midnight, Higgins reunited with Coleman, Cherry, and Haden for a 1987 tour that culminated in a new studio album, In All Languages. The following year Higgins teamed with poet Kamau Daaood to found the World Stage, a storefront enclave that hosted creative workshops, community activities, and live performances. He regularly tapped his extensive professional network to lure many of the biggest names in jazz to the World Stage site both as performers and as tutors, and ultimately Higgins turned his attention to teaching in a formal setting as well, serving on the jazz faculty at UCLA. Higgins spent much of the remainder of his life battling liver disease, a manifestation of the hepatitis he contracted decades earlier. In March 1996, he underwent a liver transplant and when his body rejected the new organ, he was forced to submit to a second procedure just 24 hours later. Higgins nevertheless returned to music a few months later, traveling to New York to renew his collaboration with Coleman. However, by 2001 his new liver began to fail, and while waiting to find a donor, he succumbed to pneumonia on May 3. Higgins was just 64 years old at the time of his death. ~ Jason Ankeny

  • ORIGIN
    Los Angeles, CA
  • BORN
    Oct 11, 1936

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