The album is often overlooked in favour of Coleman’s glory days with Atlantic Records, when The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959) and Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1960) pushed at the frontiers of what the music could achieve. It also seems to exist in the shade of his historic live recordings at Stockholm’s Golden Circle, released by Blue Note in an extraordinary two-volume edition in 1965. And yet, as Phil Freeman puts it over at the Blue Note website, ‘The Empty Foxhole is one of Ornette Coleman’s least-heard albums, but it’s also one of the most in need of reassessment’.
Listening today, The Empty Foxhole offers enough to make it more than a mere curiosity. There is the frantic, suppressed energy of ‘Sound Gravitation’; the exuberant movement of ‘Freeway Express’; the album’s closer, ‘Zig Zag’, is reminiscent of earlier Coleman work; and Coleman’s trumpet on the title track is not unlike Ascenseur pour l’échafaud-era Miles Davis. While The Empty Foxhole might not be the jazz innovator’s most significant record, it still has moments that shine. A minor classic.