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Virgin Beauty

Ornette Coleman and Prime Time

Initial release : June 1988

Portrait OR 44301

Jerry Garcia plays on three tracks of this release.

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  • 3 Wishes (Coleman)
  • Bourgeois Boogie (Coleman)
  • Happy Hour (Coleman)
  • Virgin Beauty (Coleman)
  • Healing the Feeling (Coleman)
  • Singing in the Shower (Coleman)
  • Desert Players (Coleman)
  • Honeymooners (Coleman)
  • Chanting (Coleman)
  • Spelling the Alphabet (Coleman)
  • Unknown Artist (Coleman)

Prime Time;

  • Ornette Coleman - saxophone, trumpet, violin
  • Denardo Coleman - percussion, drums, keyboards
  • Bern Nix - guitar
  • Charlie Ellerbee - guitar
  • Al MacDowell - bass
  • Chris Walker - bass
  • Calvin Weston - drums
Guest musician;
  • Jerry Garcia - guitar (on 3 Wishes, Singing In The Shower and Desert Players)

  • Producer - Denardo Coleman
  • Arranger - Ornette Coleman
  • Engineer - Tom Lazarus
  • Assitant engineer - Ellen Fitton, Jim Hoyson, Joe Martin, Ira McLaughlin, Karen Robben
  • Mastering - Bob Ludwig
  • Art Direction - Christopher Austopchuk
  • Front cover photography - Angela Fisher
  • Inner sleeve photography - David Gahr
  • Back cover photography - courtesy the collection of Prince Jean Louis Faucegny
  • Recorded at Master Sound Astoria, Atlantic Studios, Clinton Studios
  • Mixed at Atlantic Studios, Clinton Studios
  • Studio bookings - Christian Dalbavie

Ornette Coleman's Prime Time albums and indeed most of his later work suffered critically by comparison to his early ground-breaking work.

In Ornette Coleman, The Harmolodic Life (Quartet Books, 1992), John Litweiler briefly mentions the recording of Virgin Beauty.

The next year Ornette, Prime Time, Giordano, and the Philharmonic Orchestra offered a London performance of Skies Of America. Ornette also recorded his Virgin Beauty album, the stimulus for which had been, at least in part, a concert that he and Cecil Taylor had attended at Madison Square Gardens, by the rock band the Grateful Dead. Ornette had been awed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the Dead's legion of fans: "They could have done anything up there and those people would have screamed . . . I thought 'Well, we could be friends here.' Because if these people here could be into this, they could dig what we're doing." Jerry Garcia who stretches out in the Dead's guitar solos, joined Prime Time for three of Virgin Beauty's songs; though he contributes some Django Reinhardt-like phrases to Desert Players, he is primarily a third guitar voice in the improvising ensembles. "Virgin Beauty is Prime Time's best," reviewed Kevin Whitehead, who maintained that, "Prime Time sounds more conservative but more focussed . . " Indeed, the nature of the group seemed to be changing. Some of the complex rhythmic excitement was now replaced by a no less infectious pop-music spirit, and Ornette's playing is for the most part especially lighthearted. Bourgeois Boogie hints at Charles Mingus's Boogie Stop Shuffle; the bubbly Three Wishes has a Middle Eastern theme over an exotic rhythm pattern; Spelling The Alphabet and Happy Hour offer clever Ornette, and the latter is a fast country-music piece. Two tracks, Virgin Beauty and Chanting are ballads played by Ornette over darker-colored variations of ECM harmonies. Lovliest of these performances is the ballad Unknown Artist, which begins with Ornette's alto, alone, in a sorrowing theme. Virgin Beauty is the most varied of Prime Time albums, and perhaps for that reason it sold more copies in it's first year of release than any other of Ornette's other recordings.
The Penguin Guide To Jazz (1992) is more succinct;
Dull, MOR jazz-funk in which the outlines of tougher material (3 Wishes, Desert Players, Healing The Feeling) are smothered in a clotted rock mix and further compromised by Denardo's bland keyboard washes. Grateful Dead man Garcia was a controversial inclusion, but does nothing to merit all the fuss, spinning out inoffensively countrified figures that merely take their place in the queue. Only the haunting title-track wakens memories of what Ornette was once capable of as a pure melodist.
Ornette Coleman sat in with the Grateful Dead on two occasion.

The first on February 23, 1993 when Ornette Coleman's group opened for the Dead. Garcia sat in with Coleman for one song. Coleman sat in with the Dead during Space and stayed on stage for the rest of the set.

Coleman also sat in with the Dead, for the last few songs of the second set, on December 9, 1993.

Related releases

Two of the tracks that feature Garcia, 3 Wishes and Desert Players, were included on a promotional sampler;

Bourgeois Beauty was included on the sampler CD;
  • First Palate: The Portrait Sampler, Various Artists, 1988, Portrait RK-44124