And not only The Bad Plus, the trio also featured Ron Miles on cornet and Tim Berne and Sam Newsome on saxes. What they did on Wednesday night at Berlin’s A-Trane was resurrecting the 1971 Ornette Coleman album “Science Fiction” (his 17th) which is certainly not one of the better known albums of the groundbreaking saxophonist.
On the original session, Coleman played alto sax, violin, and trumpet and he had a stellar cast of musicians: among them Don Cherry, Bobby Bradford, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, and Ed Blackwell. Also, David Henderson was featured on the title track reciting poetry, and Asha Puthli on vocals. One of those tracks, a love song quiet unusual for Coleman at the time, entitled “All My Life”, was sung last night by The Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson.
I have to admit I was not familiar with the album and listened to it for the first time after the show. It inlcudes some very concise experiments in tracks like “The Jungle Is A Skyscraper” or “Civilization Day” and some of the 2015 version was underscored with electronics, loops, and effects programmed by Reid. And he even used the echoed recitations on the title track. Which made sense in a way because of the overall topic of the album. Coleman was already influenced at the time by Arabic instruments (on the album Redman plays the musette for example) and he would visit Morocco for the first time a year after the recording, but his overall influence had “waned considerably, while John Coltrane‘s dominance of saxophone styles had correspondingly spread”, according to the New Grove.
But anyway, the music reflected the fast and furious, loud and spacy and crazy period of early 70s Coleman and both Ethan Iverson on piano and Dave King on drums together with Reid on bass and the three horn masters revisited the music for a new audience. I found this great description of the original record on allmusic, by Steve Huey: “Science Fiction was his creative rebirth, a stunningly inventive and appropriately alien-sounding blast of manic energy.” The aliens and the maniacs were alive on stage last night.