Artists-On-Albums: AOA#3 (Chad Taylor on Science Fiction)

Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo) on…

Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction (Columbia Records, 1971)

Ornette Coleman - Science Fiction

When people ask me what sort of music I play, I normally cringe. If I answer “I play my music,” I normally get a funny look.  If I say “I play free jazz,” I get a funny look as well.  So I usually say, “Oh I play a little bit of everything.”

‘Free jazz’ is a term I hate to use.  This is because whenever people are confused as to what category to put a piece of music they always label it as ‘free jazz.’  The term free jazz also implies that there is no form, structure, chord changes or rhythm.  However, there is so much great music labeled as free jazz that has all these things.  In 1960, Ornette Coleman recorded the groundbreaking recording entitled Free Jazz and the name has stuck to define a movement for 50 years.  We can’t seem to shake it.  However, free jazz is not a genre of music.  It never has been.  It is just words.  In 1960 Ornette also recorded another amazing record called, This Is Our Music.  If this name would have stuck to define a genre of music I think we would be much better off.

The record Science Fiction, released by Ornette in 1971, is not free jazz, it is not experimental music, it is not avant-garde.  It is Ornette Coleman’s music, and in my opinion it is a masterpiece.

The first time I heard it was when I was 19.  I was in music school in New York.  I was hanging out with a friend one day and he just threw it on his turntable without any sort of warning or preparation.  It completely blew my mind.  He asked me what I thought about it afterward and I really didn’t know what to say.  I just walked out the door without even saying goodbye.  Take a tune like “All My Life.”  First off, the lyrics are so beautiful it is almost obscene.  On top of that you have the incredible voice of Asha Puthil singing them to one of the most gorgeous melodies ever written.  And underneath you don’t have a back beat, you have Ed Blackwell playing west African rhythms and Charlie Haden… well playing Charlie Haden.  There are no solos.  They just play the melody three times and then end the tune.  And what about the track “Science Fiction” itself?  Here you have high energy blowing in the background with poetry being read over the top at half-speed with analog delay.  Meanwhile, beneath that you have all sorts of found sound, including a baby crying.  If anyone else tried to pull this off it would be a disaster but Ornette pulls it off.  “Rock The Clock” is another gem.  It starts off like a lot of Ornette’s music and then out of nowhere comes this funky ass guitar riff that could of been on a Sly and The Family Stone record.  And let’s not forget “Law Years.”  Here you have some of the most swinging music on record in my opinion.  Of course, like a lot of great records, this record was dogged by the press when it first came out.  Now it is considered some of Ornette’s best work.  If you get The Complete Science Fiction Recordings (which you can now purchase on iTunes) you also get the record Broken Shadows.  Me and Rob Mazurek play our version of its beautiful melody-based title-track on the new Chicago Underground Duo record Boca Negra.

Regardless if you like Ornette’s music or not, this is a record that broke all the rules and was truly genre-defying before it was considered cool.  Call it what you will, free jazz, avant-garde, experimental… the bottom line is, it’s Ornette’s music and you might like it.

Notes On The Artist:

Chad Taylor

Drummer/percussionist/electronic dabbler Chad Taylor is – alongside Rob Mazurek – a co-founding member of Thrill Jockey and Delmark Records mainstay act the Chicago Underground.  A band that expands and contracts depending on available personnel, to be the Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, Quartet or Orchestra.  The group’s latest Duo record, Boca Negra, is still fresh on Thrill Jockey.  Besides CU duties, Chad has shared his sublime stick skills with many of his labelmates. This has most notably included generously giving guest spots on solo releases from Tortoise’s Jeff Parker and The Sea And Cake’s Sam Prekop, as well as Brokeback’s sublime Looks At The Bird.

More recently, Chad has also contributed to studio sessions for the upcoming new LP from Sam Beam’s Iron & Wine and is set to tour later in the year with Marc Ribot, Digital Primitives and a new trio featuring himself, Ken Vandermark and Havaard Wiik.

Where Chad Taylor is concerned it seems, the devil will certainly have to look elsewhere for idle hands to play with… |

“Spy On The Floor by Chicago Underground Duo”