Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ornette Coleman - Chappaqua OST (1965)

How the hell Conrad Rooks (or whoever was in charge of this decision) opted for the Ravi Shankar version of the film score is forever beyond me. I could be in the dark about some particular permutation, but listening to them side by side, I go with this one all day.

Honestly, the churned out dopey cliche vibe of the Shankar score is weak as the companion music to the film, and weak as an offering for the master musician that was Ravi shankar. I'm sorry, but Shankar just rubbed one out.

I saw this film because I randomly picked it up at the neighborhood video rental store when I was nineteen. There was a bargain bin of vhs and I liked the the cover. I had yet to do hard drugs, I was just discovering jazz and  the only education I'd had with experimental film was David Lynch. Watching this film was my first true "countercultural" experience. And eighteen years later, the film still trumps all else.

The premise is that a man is institutionalized due to alcohol addiction. As he goes through DT withdrawls,  the camera portrays what he is hallucinating. There are a multitude of visually striking moments presented, but the one that always pops into my head is a scene in a club where Ornette is skronking away on the sax and standing next to him is the little man from the tv show Fantasy Island. If you're my age or older, you know what I'm talking about, if not, look it up. Either way, its a truly harrowing scene and I can't really explain why. Other notable appearances include William S. Burroughs (this caused me to begin reading his books when I was too young to get it), Allen Ginsberg, and Swami Satchidinanda.

This is an immensely disturbing film in that it is violent, schizophrenic and psychedelic in the true sense of the word. For whatever reason, this film is hard to find. Unfortunately, I've lost my copy, and this really upsets me. Regardless, this is not a film blog. Point being, you need not be a jazz head to appreciate the excruciating hard work that Ornette put into this score that was never used. We're talking about an hour and twenty minutes of textbook Ornette free jazz, just a bit off ballads, and even a venture into his own twisted brand of cool jazz that you won't find outside of this record. And these are the same players as the "Golden Circle" sessions, just to give you heads a backdrop. Such a heavy band...

Whether you like jazz and hard drugs or not, find this film and listen to this (not)soundtrack. And for fuck's sake, somebody leave a comment. Thanks everybody.

Get it HERE

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