Ornette Coleman's 1960s recordings for Blue Note are usually -- and perhaps unjustly -- de-emphasized when accounting for the enormity of his contribution to the evolution of jazz. The saxophonist recorded five albums under his own name: There are two volumes of At the "Golden Circle" Stockholm, The Empty Foxhole, Love Call, and New York Is Now. Further, Coleman served as a sideman on Jackie McLean's New and Old Gospel. Round Trip, on 180-gram vinyl, is the first box set in Blue Note's Tone Poet series. Beautifully illustrated and authoritatively annotated, these titles appear in exact reproductions.

The two volumes of At the "Golden Circle" Stockholm showcase Coleman's trio with bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett in December of 1965. The first set is among the most exuberant dates in Coleman's catalog. "European Echoes" and "Dee Dee" offer proof of the saxophonist's bluesy, expansive, refutation of bop, and they swing like mad. Vol. 2 is a tougher go. Coleman plays violin and trumpet often here -- instruments he didn't conventionally "play." He employed them as "sound generators" while searching for new colors in pursuit of emotional expression. Recorded in 1966, The Empty Foxhole remains controversial. Coleman is accompanied by Charlie Haden and his then-ten-year-old son Denardo Coleman on drums. The youngster's frenetic, pulse-style drumming powers the free bop blues in "Good Old Days." Other highlights include the striated balladry of the title cut and the jaunty, melodic "Zig Zag." Jackie McLean's New and Old Gospel was recorded in 1967 with Coleman exclusively playing trumpet. Drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Scott Holt, and pianist LaMont Johnson round out the quintet. Comprised of a side-long suite by McLean and two long compositions by Coleman, the famed altoist breaks out of his hard bop M.O. while Coleman's canny improvising on the brooding "Strange as It Seems" showcases the development of his individual language on the horn. New York Is Now! and Love Call are drawn from two New York sessions in the spring of 1968. Coleman and longtime friend and high school classmate, tenorist Dewey Redman, are joined by drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Reggie Workman. These marked the first of eight recordings Redman made with Coleman. Highlights on the former include the exploratory "The Garden of Souls," Jones' polyrhythmic big beat leading "Broadway Blues," and the joyful head-to-head exchange between saxophonists on "Round Trip." Love Call is intense and woolly, comprised of mostly uptempo tunes. The interplay between Coleman and Redman on "Airborne" and "Check Out Time" is pushed outward by the stellar time expansion executed by the rhythm section. The title showcases Coleman's trumpet in an incendiary exchange with Redman.

Round Trip: Ornette Coleman on Blue Note contains a gorgeously illustrated booklet with many rare photos, discographical info, and an excellent critical essay by jazz journalist Thomas Conrad. While the set's price tag may dictate this as a "fans-only" purchase, the material's presentation in chronological and aesthetic context makes a solid case for reappraising Coleman's extremely creative, exploratory tenure at the label.

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