Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar, 2006)

Of the few remaining legends in jazz, Ornette Coleman is the only one that doesn't record fairly often. Cecil Taylor records fairly often for a variety of labels, Sonny Rollins had long running deal with Milestone before starting his own label, and Ornette has followed that route in starting his own imprint and releasing Sound Grammar, his first album in nine years which is a recording of a concert from Germany in 2005 where he performed on alto saxophone, violin and trumpet and was joined by his son Denardo Coleman on drums, Gregory Cohen on bass, and Tony Falanga on bass. The music is classic Coleman with sweeping joyful arcs of alto on some reinterpretations of classics and a few new compositions.

"Jordan" leads things off with a choppy start-stop feel which has Ornette improvising over bowed and plucked bass. There's an interlude where the two basses improvise together before Coleman contributes a few trumpet blasts. "Sleep Talking" begins with mournful bowed bass with some light alto sax comments. A bass duet over drums contributes a very open sound to the music. "Turnaround" has an almost "Saints Go Marching In" feel to the melody. Ornette has a gently sweeping solo over a bed of bass and drums. The group gets a beautifully unique sound with Coleman's keening alto and two basses. "Matador" takes things at a faster pace with some jaunty, smiling alto before two basses, both plucked, duke it out before Ornette sweeps back in and takes everybody out.

Both "Waiting" and "Once Only" convey a deep sense of plaintive loss and yearning with Coleman's saxophone nearly crying the blues in these deeply emotional performances. Contrasting those performances are a couple of free up-tempo numbers, "A Call To Duty" and Song X." The first is a fast paced, full throttle improvisation with ominous bass and drums keeping a wicked beat while Ornette contributes some slurred trumpet and sharp alto saxophone. Finally "Song X" ends the concert on a very high note with some daredevil heart-stopping alto improvisation over frantic basses and drums. Denardo Coleman gets his lone drum solo and there a cool bass duet interlude, but the moment belongs to the leader who is absolutely on fire. This is an endlessly exciting and powerful disc proving that Ornette Coleman is still a vital force in jazz. Very highly recommended.

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