These records provide an eloquent case for the universality of music. The Texas blues evolution to free-form expressiveness practiced by alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman makes implicit reference to the music of several of the West Africans represented on the Antilles anthology. At surface level there would seem to be little connection between such a luminary of avant-garde jazz as Coleman and African pop musicians influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Art Blakey and Bob Dylan. But these seemingly different points of view are resolved through provocative rhythmic symmetry.
” … Rock, classical, folk and jazz are all yesterday’s titles,” Coleman writes in his liner notes to Dancing in Your Head, his first record in five years. Dancing certainly defies categorization — the rock-solid foundation is simple in its repetitive cadence, yet incredibly complex structurally and melodically, combining several different rhythms and harmonies simultaneously, an idea Coleman describes as “harmolodic.” Ornette solos fiercely throughout, improvising on a given line in as many variations as conceivable. The result is a stream of music that makes you want to dance and listen at the same time.
Coleman also includes a short piece, “Midnight Sunrise,” recorded with the master musicians of Joujouka. This traditional Moroccan music is quite different from what the Ivory Coast musicians play, but there is a character to the singing of the Ivory Coast musicians that identifies it with the high-pitched drone of the Moroccan reeds.
Most importantly, though, the loosely associated musicians who play on each other’s songs on the Antilles anthology (especially bassist Charles Atangana and guitarist Francis Kingsley) have a vision of music that assimilates Western and Eastern forms. Influences from Frank Zappa to James Brown filter through with the same attitude that these musicians use in their own traditional folk music. In their rhythmic concept these African musicians, like Coleman, find the key to transcending style clichés. Thus they render musical exclusivity useless. A quote from Atangana fits well with Coleman’s remark: “Music is a beat, and without a beat there is no life.”