This edition contains a very rare, long-unavailable Ornette Coleman concert, featuring the fabulous 1969 Ornette Coleman Quartet with Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell.
This excellent Bilzen concert is interesting because three of the five pieces belong to the Crisis album, recorded earlier the same year.
01 Comme il faut (7:59)
02 Space Jungle II (16:13)
03 Song For Che (10:19)
04 Broken Shadows (3:26)
05 Tomorrow (10:26)
Total time: 48:26 min.
All compositions are by Coleman, except Song For Che written by Charlie Haden.
Ornette Coleman (as, tp & vln), Dewey Redman (ts & Arabic oboe), Charlie Haden (b) and Ed Blackwell (d).
Recorded live at the Bilzen Festival, Belgium, on August 24, 1969.
"Belgium 1969 fills a huge void in the Coleman recorded timeline for a couple of reasons. It is possibly the earliest recorded appearance of the quartet of Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell who formed the base group for Coleman during his early-'70s recordings. It's also a veritable godsend for devotees of Coleman's Crisis LP on Impulse (still unavailable on CD, how can that be?) since the set list virtually duplicates that unsung classic recorded five months before, and the versions are substantially different. Truth in advertising kudos to Gambit for noting on the back cover the sound quality is not pristine (chiefly the predictable problem of hearing Haden when the others are playing) but the historical value of rarely performed material from an under-documented period clearly wins out over any sonic quibbles. The opening "Comme Il Faut" is taken very fast and never quite achieves the glorious melodic lock of the Crisis version as Redman almost lays out completely on the harmonic intertwine of the opening cadenza before catapulting into his solo. The improvisations are dominated by Coleman and Blackwell, with Haden sensed more than heard, and while the performance is excellent, it feels somewhat truncated -- but bear in mind the 14-minute Crisis version is one of the best Coleman performances ever, and one particularly revealing of his whole musical approach.
"Space Jungle II" begins with Redman's musette sounding like flocks of birds scattering, as Haden works with arco bass overtones, Coleman comes in on trumpet, and Blackwell starts commenting. Each section of this 16-minute voyage in outside sounds starts with one player featured, and then evolves into a kind of continually ebbing and flowing interplay as Blackwell's solo merges with either Coleman's violin or Haden's arco bass (or both). Redman's musette returns for squalls and flurries, then turns it over to Coleman as Blackwell motors on before everyone drops away and Coleman wraps it up with an extended, inimitable violin foray.
The less than exemplary sound may actually enhance this performance by turning it into something of a dub experience -- you wonder who's coming in from what angle, when or whether they backed off the mike intentionally for musical effect or just weren't picked up very well. (For what it's worth, I don't agree with Lawrence Steel's liner note statement that this "Space Jungle" is a different composition from Crisis. I always felt it was pretty obvious the titles for that and "Trouble in the East" were switched on the LP cover and sans Don Cherry's ethereal Indian flute shaping the Crisis version, it's Redman's musette that sets the early tone here).
Coleman really shines in his soling on "Song for Che" leaving lots of spaces between his notes and letting Blackwell's drums carry the momentum into his own brilliant solo turn at the end. Haden is presumably somewhere in there, too, but the real shocker is the absence of a bass solo by the composer which makes you wonder if a pre-melody opening bass solo was edited out or something. A brief backstage interview snippet with Coleman following the short "Broken Shadows," and the fact these performances feel stitched together more than a coherent set per se, raise the possibility the recording was done from the side of the stage or even taped from a radio broadcast. "Tomorrow" closes in kinetic but not frenetic fashion, Redman screaming harmonics over Blackwell's almost all-drum, very-little-cymbals continuum before a patented Coleman moodswing calms it down and sets up a strong (and quite audible) Haden bass solo before the final rapid-fire statement of the theme. Belgium 1969 may not offer the definitive treatment of these pieces (Crisis does) and it does have its sound shortcomings, but it does make available compelling material from an overlooked segment of Coleman's career. It's not essential, but it is a valuable supplement that falls well above the only-for-completists level."
Don Snowden -All Music Guide