Ornette Coleman - Dancing In Your Head: Classic or Dud?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
This is the sparkliest most festive album I own. The greatest basslines too.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 04:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

you have to ask? classic!

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 04:35 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i dunno, isn't all his electric stuff a bit fusoid?

duane, Wednesday, 5 February 2003 04:50 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i like blood ulmer's "tales of captain black" better than any real ornette electric albums.

duane, Wednesday, 5 February 2003 04:50 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

fusoid! *splutter*

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 04:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

oh man, i was just going to start an Ornette and Prime Time thread. i was watching a really old Saturday Night Live rerun with them playing live last night. i've never really heard any of this stuff before and it kinda blew my mind. two drummers, two guitars, bass and him funking it up. i've listened to a few of the albums in stores but put them back on the shelves because it was too smoothly produced.

what's a good raw free-funk starter?

JasonD (JasonD), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 06:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i think "body meta" is a handy ornette coleman electric funk album, with five seperate tracks, some re-done by other coleman ensembles before/ since

george gosset (gegoss), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 06:35 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Caveat emptor to those who jump into Ornette with "Dancing in Your Head" expecting "sparkly and festive"... while those two descriptors are perhaps applicable, so are "frantic", "nerve-jarring", and let's not forget "repetitive". The bulk of the album consists of the same few notes being played over and over. It's certainly diffferent, and you may love it, but don't expect anything approaching an easy ride.

Sean (Sean), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 06:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

100% unadulterated absolute motherfucking classic

M Matos (M Matos), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 06:54 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The bulk of the album consists of the same few notes being played over and over

this describes a bulk of my favorite albums

JasonD (JasonD), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 07:02 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Didn't Marcello describe it as one of the six most important records of the last 40 years on his radio show the other week? Not sure what the other ones were (besides 'Elevator Over The Hill', presumably).

James Ball (James Ball), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 09:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

yes he did. looked for a copy at tower yesterday with no success. but i will get this.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 09:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Wow--I'm amazed at the response here. I love Ornette to little tiny bits, but this album annoys the living hell out of me. I think I once described it as "the kind of funk you can't actually dance to."

Douglas (Douglas), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 11:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The melodies are incredible monotonous, but I think that's one of the things I actually like about it.

Jazzbo (jmcgaw), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 13:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I used to really like this album, but last time I heard a part of it (on a compilation) I found it tiresome. (I would like to point out, however, that Charles Ellerbee, who played with Prime Time, was recently playing witht the Sun Ra Arkestra, and does some really great things on guitar, when he is allowed to let loose--which isn't often enough in that context.)

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 5 February 2003 14:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The fact that the two Prime Time tracks are paired with a field recording made with the Master Musicians of Jajouka should be your first clue. Yes, it's the same motifs over and over again, albeit underpinned by an ever-shifting base of push-me-pull-you funk. In short, it's got a good beat and you can trance to it. Clas-sick.

Lee G (Lee G), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 15:01 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Julio, have you heard the Body Meta? I think you'd approve (VERY Beefheart-like guitars!)

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 15:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Its not as bad as the one with Gerry G though....

brg30 (brg30), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 15:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''Julio, have you heard the Body Meta? I think you'd approve (VERY Beefheart-like guitars!)''

no i haven't. is it available?

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 15:49 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Only on import at present I think, but well worth tracking down!

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 16:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"frantic", "nerve-jarring", "repetitive"
"the same few notes being played over and over"
"the kind of funk you can't actually dance to"
"incredibly monotonous"

I think you guys must have been listening to a different album than the one that I know and love. I categorically disagree with all of the above statements. Far from being repetitive or monotonous, the record features long, flowing free solos from Ornette over a constantly shifting bass line. Yes, there is a motif which is repeated at intervals and echoed occasionally in the bass, but to say that the music consists of the "same few notes being played over and over" is just a perverse refusal to listen. Furthermore, I don't see how anyone could claim that this music couldn't be danced to. I practically bounce up and down in my chair every time I listen to the funky, infectious beat on this record. I think the real reason that people think this is monotonous is because they don't know how to listen to music that doesn't have a conventional tonal structure. These same people would undoubtedly find Debussy monotonous as well. The only caveat I would give is that I think the album really should be sold as an EP, since it is basically just two takes of the same tune plus a little snippet of the Master Musicians of Joujouka. But EP or LP, it's a classic.

o. nate (onate), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 16:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

o.nate = otm

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 16:35 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I also agree 100% with everything o. nate said. I actually found the album surprisingly accessible on first listen.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 17:48 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"o.nate = otm"

"I also agree 100% with everything o. nate said."

"I think the real reason that people think this is monotonous is because they don't know how to listen to music that doesn't have a conventional tonal structure. These same people would undoubtedly find Debussy monotonous as well."


ArfArf, Wednesday, 5 February 2003 18:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i wrote something about this a while back but i can't find it now. anyway, classic.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 18:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Maybe I just don't know how to listen to music period.

Sean (Sean), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 18:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

here's what i wrote back in dec or nov:

it’s a bit of a dirty secret that this year has sucked for albums, for me. (a secret because my inner rockist still worries about this sort of thing. it took SEVEN CDs to fill up all the singles I heard this year that were good-to-great-to-fucking-amazing. I have three albums that are fer shure best-of at the end of the year [streets, immer, 2 many djs] and about a dozen that are bubbling under, that I just can’t commit to [outhud, black dice, horsepower, farben, total 4, digital disco, sonic youth, cee-lo, mri, wire, etc etc etc…]. last year it took definite effort to list 20 great singles, and my fave albums list was hard to whittle down to 50.) because while I’m firmly convinced that this is a great time to be alive and listening to pop music, I’ve also been listening to more old shit in the last few months than can possibly be healthy for this mindset.

maybe it’s the change in the weather (after a blazing hot summer, it is officially cold and rainy for the next 6 months in the pacific northwest), but my attention seems focused more these days on not only the old but also the “difficult.” (all that Wire Music I listened to between 18-21 when I was trying so hard to be hard.) I don’t think this is forever (one thing re-listening for the first time in 5-6-12 months or more [some of it I don’t think I’ve listened to ever] shows is that much of it is [still] the musical equivalent of reading theory: perhaps beneficial but at what cost?) but here we are, trawling through my (surprisingly large!) catalog of krautrock, 70s miles & related, free jazz, modern classical, old blooze, indie hiphop/turntablism, modern “difficult” rock…

one of the records that has caught & kept my attention is ornette coleman’s dancing in your head, his 1973 experiment with fusing miles funk with Jajoukan dervish. I’ve never heard much ornette. I know some people rate him highly, and of course I’m well aware of his Importance and that Aptly Titled Record with the double quartet (quintet?). I gather that this record remains relatively unknown/underrated becuz, like miles in his way, the free jazz apostates didn’t like him dropping the pugilistic front: the gusts of black nationalist rhetoric, the displays of preternatural skillz presented as brute force, the Serious as Yr Life burden. and unlike miles, who actually threw OFF the yoke of dogged uncle tomming accusations when he started fucking betty davis and listening to her [far more advanced?] record collection, there’s no physicality, sexiness, acid-blotting or dashikis to go along with the ride.

on the one hand, it’s not Jazz: hard-scrabble chicken scratch, electric bass with plenty of ga-dunk-a-dunk-dunk in its trunk, syncopation (sorta, kinda.) but there’s none of funk’s singularity of purpose (moving asses), if plenty of its more tangential concerns (freeing minds). it’s not sexy: there’s a curiously sterile grind to the bass at times, but the fragmentation makes it a teasing come on with no resolution. and I know nothing about time signatures, but no one is playing on the one and EVERYONE is playing on the one, all at once. on the other hand, this is very much jazz: melodic themes are stated at the beginning and then improvised on for the duration. all of the “funk” elements are quoted out of context, like the moments where trad folk forms pop up mirage-like in, say, derek bailey’s playing. and it’s very Free Jazz: everyone’s playing by themselves and trying to hog the ball.

the result is like super-imposing a half dozen full-color photos of “funk” on top of one another. squint hard enough and you can make out the contours of what everyone’s playing. relax your eye/ear and a quavering approximation of groove appears outta nowhere. look away for a moment & when you return the whole thing is a blazing riot of tone & color. coherent as you make it, then; it ain’t music for walking, talking, working, driving, dancing. it is a free jazz record after all. if this is what “harmolodics” means, then I’m that much closer to understanding. here’s a more important question, though: okay, possible failed experiment, yes yes. but why would ornette want to trade this shaking death rattle of neon colored stupidity for the respectful coffin of Modern Composer? because it owes more to (or, maybe more accurately, presaged) DNA or pigbag or “the flowers of romance” than duke or even charles ives?

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 18:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

it's the frickin business, man. i even like the OTHER prime time stuf - you know the SCARY ones where it sounds like shakatak gone daytime tv on mushrooms (virgin beauty / in all languages disc 2) but i think that' smore of a perverse angle i have on them BODY META and DANCING are the frickin nuts!

bob snoom, Wednesday, 5 February 2003 19:04 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i love the clattering absentminded drums

zemko (bob), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 19:29 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I think it's my favorite album ever! The basslines are totally nuts.

Kris (aqueduct), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 19:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

It also reminds me of the second Kraftwerk album.

Kris (aqueduct), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 19:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

kraftwerk eh? nice connection.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 19:48 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

shakatak gone daytime tv on mushrooms

o yes

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 22:22 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

because of this thread i just rushed out and bought this cd. thank you.

JasonD (JasonD), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 23:03 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

what did you think?

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 5 February 2003 23:21 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

ok i better listen to it again, i haven't heard it for years. can someone do me a tape?

duane, Thursday, 6 February 2003 00:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i'd do you a tape duane, but i bet someone closer to you has this album

jess (dubplatestyle), Thursday, 6 February 2003 00:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

How do you all feel about "Of Human Feelings"? I haven't heard it in years, but suspect I'd feel about the same. My vinyl copy is sitting in storage, possibly becoming valuable.

Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 6 February 2003 00:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What's so funny/bad abt being fusoid? (Not that 'Dancing In Yr Head' is my idea of fusion anyhow - Jaco Pastorius once called a track of his 'Punk Jazz', but he cldn't stop wanking long enough to play a bassline as basic, simple, primal, perfect as the one the Ornette alb)

Andrew L (Andrew L), Thursday, 6 February 2003 00:43 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

yes i dig it.

it's exactly what i was expecting, except for the short (34min?) length. that does kinda suck.

the tracks with the Master Musicians of Jajouka sound kinda like a more together Archie Schepp "Live at the Pan-African Festival" (which i really dislike)

i've only listened to it once so far though

JasonD (JasonD), Thursday, 6 February 2003 03:21 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Even Jess's comments, I mean, have I just listened to too much 'difficult' music or something? Until this thread, I'd never even thought of the album in those terms. I'm not even particularly knowledgeable about jazz. I found Giant Steps and Kind Of Blue much more challenging than this album. It's got a steady upbeat groove - I'm surprised someone thinks it's not danceable - throughout, a totally catchy hook that keeps coming back in case you feel lost, and all the melodic playing seemed pretty accessible and major-key to me. The only other OC album I knew was Free Jazz, which is much more difficult than this. I honestly thought of it as almost like a pop alternative to free jazz/free improv. Almost like a really great, inspired rock or funk jam more than anything.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Thursday, 6 February 2003 03:40 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i completely agree, sundar. i played it in the car on the way home, and my girlfriend (the one i'm afraid might not want to go to the Rova Sax concert) was singing the tunes for minutes after we got home (we both were, it's damn good)

JasonD (JasonD), Thursday, 6 February 2003 05:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I dunno if it's "difficult" so much as it's "busier than most music tends to be." (I'm amazed Douglas dislikes it, btw--thought it'd be right up his alley. Oh well.)

M Matos (M Matos), Thursday, 6 February 2003 08:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Great post from jess. I was thinking of checking out this album anyway but, like Jason, this thread has got me convinced.

James Ball (James Ball), Thursday, 6 February 2003 09:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink


I would start with "Body Meta." I've always liked "Dancing" but it drives a lot of people I know crazy. Personally I hear some cool stuff in the guitar interplay, I'm a Bern Nix fan. I also like Beefheart, so maybe I'm warped...but I actually don't hear Ornette or Van Vliet as "difficult" artists, it sounds pretty normal to me, pretty much like r&b and blues. I think it's just a gentle leap from the most extreme hard-ass funk music like James Brown to Colman or James Blood Ulmer.

I've been going back and listening to Ulmer lately, in the wake of his good blues album cut down in Memphis a couple of years back. I really like "Black Rock" the best, it's the most accessible of his records; I also like "Are You Glad to Be in America" and a few of the cuts on "Free Lancing," esp. "High Time." "Odyssey" is a unique record; funny, I was listening to it the other day and my wife said, "What the hell, are you listening to CELTIC MUSIC now, have you gone nuts?"

Anyway, I like Ornette..."Tone Dialing" is nice too. What he does is hip, it swings, and I think you have to just go with it rhythmically to really appreciate it. Some days it doesn't sound right but I think that's OK...

Edd Hurt (delta ed), Thursday, 6 February 2003 15:34 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

And I forgot, Ulmer really helps Arthur Blythe's classic circa-1980 albums "Lenox Avenue Breakdown" and "Illusions" come alive...great albums I've revisited recently.

Edd Hurt (delta ed), Thursday, 6 February 2003 15:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i listened to "Dancing in your head" this morning followed by "On the corner" and realized they're the same album made by two different people. not that the notes are the same or any of that sort of thing, but they're made from the same viewpoint of layered groove w/some jazz soloing, are a little difficult to digest at first, but have such beautiful/ happy melodies you can't stop whistling them for hours

JasonD (JasonD), Thursday, 6 February 2003 17:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I just remembered I'd BEEN to a party where everyone was dancing to this record.

Kris (aqueduct), Thursday, 6 February 2003 18:16 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Yeah, "On the Corner," kind of an abstract Isley Brothers record. I really like "Calypso Frelimo" by Miles, from "Get Up With It."

Edd Hurt (delta ed), Thursday, 6 February 2003 18:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

love this, so would you suggest body meta, science fiction, or skies of america next

696, Tuesday, 12 June 2007 09:09 (ten years ago) Permalink

Science Fiction, which is his "pop" album and also IMO his best and most complete - the theme of "School Days" leads to "Theme From A Symphony" in Skies Of America (his "classical" album) leads to DIYH, king of '77 punk records.

Marcello Carlin, Tuesday, 12 June 2007 09:17 (ten years ago) Permalink

Agree with Marcello - Science Fiction is his best. Get the complete sessions.

frankiemachine, Tuesday, 12 June 2007 10:20 (ten years ago) Permalink

four months pass...

from an old interview in the wire I was reading:

"The 1984 disco-fied version of Dancing In Your Head" that appears on Jamaaladeen Tacuma's Renaissance Man offers a tantalising glimpse into how Ornette might sound if he opted more directly for the funk market. Supported by congas and a DMX drum computer plus Jamaal and Charlie Ellerbee (the funkiest Prime Timers) Ornette puts more of an R & B spin on the melody. Terrific, frankly.

Anyone heard it?

artdamages, Thursday, 18 October 2007 19:45 (ten years ago) Permalink

five years pass...


Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:50 (four years ago) Permalink

didn't read the thread yet but CLASSIC is my answer for this album. my favorite ornette album

Treeship, Thursday, 27 June 2013 22:27 (four years ago) Permalink

It is a beautiful album. I am drunk and am gonna blast it through the headphones when I go to bed.

Damo Suzuki's Parrot, Thursday, 27 June 2013 23:47 (four years ago) Permalink

This is pretty great:


Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 28 June 2013 03:48 (four years ago) Permalink

my favorite ornette album

― Treeship, Thursday, 27 June 2013 22:27 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

You ridiculous hipsters.

- ― Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Thursday, 27 June 2013 15:40 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Ward Fowler, Friday, 28 June 2013 07:58 (four years ago) Permalink

what is the ornette album of choice for non-ridiculous hipsters?

Treeship, Friday, 28 June 2013 15:10 (four years ago) Permalink


Change of the Century

Prime Time Fusoid:

Of Human Feelings

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 28 June 2013 19:36 (four years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

Listening to the PT version of "Mothers of the Veil" on In All Languages, it sounds like Sting's Bring on the Night band doing a soundcheck in Chile. The way the drums come in and out of a big stomp and the guitars are meandering around while Ornette plays that heartrending melody is just perfection. I love it.

In related news, IAL has some of the most digital production of any record in the 80s – all those chilly digital reverbs. Even the quartet stuff sounds like it was recorded in a meat locker. Somehow it seems...appropriate and alien.

Think I might be about to go on a big PT run. Help me.

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 14 September 2017 12:33 (eight months ago) Permalink

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.