After disbanding his precedent-setting quartet in 1961, Ornette Coleman spent the decade releasing sporadic and stylistically varied recordings. Hamstrung by low budgets and an apparent artistic funk, the Fort Worth native’s work rarely achieved its earlier brilliance. In 1971, when Tony Orlando ruled the airwaves, Coleman signed with Columbia Records and launched a new period of creative fertility, demonstrated by this trio of reissues. Though still unfocused, the full septet performances from the Science Fiction Sessions zeroed in on Coleman’s unique and evolving notion of “harmolodics,” which liberated artists from the tyranny of structure and merged individual freedoms into a unified whole. Coleman rounded up musicians–including Dewey Redman–with the ears and the smarts to navigate such a crowded and complex route, and the whiplash stops and starts of Fiction burn with a propelled energy. Realizing a lifelong dream, Coleman next recorded one of his symphonies. Skies of America proved as dense thematically as it was chromatically; with the London Symphony as his palette, the busy orchestrations were as far-reaching and as turbulent as the times from which they sprang. Overlong for an LP, the work is presented in its entirety for the first time. By the time of its release, Coleman was in Morocco with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, whose strange tunings and polyrhythmic fury enthralled the saxophonist. Columbia was less impressed; they dropped Coleman and shelved the tapes (where they remain, except for the short tracks on Dancing in Your Head). Coleman turned to the stringlike overtones of electric guitars for his next album and launched the jazz-funk-rock group Prime Time. Its 27-minute treatment of a recurrent nursery rhyme-like theme may have made the purists scoff, yet it remains one of Coleman’s most exhilarating and joyous successes.
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