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Sound Grammar

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi USA, Inc.
  • ASIN: 555825257X
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Big A on 8 Nov 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This live session is full of beautiful music, music that is so honest and truthful in places it just breaks your heart.

Ornette Coleman's tone and attack are wonderful throughout. The harmonies go right to the heart of what he wants to put across. Greg Cohen's bowed bass line and Tony Falanga's picked, walking bass lines provide a superb accompaniment to Ornette Coleman's outstanding choice of notes, not least because of Denardo Coleman's sparse yet emphatic drumming. 'Waiting For You' immediately comes to mind as an example...

I don't think I have heard as exquisite a session as this for over a decade.

Coleman's younger contemporaries should take note that the occasional imperfect note does not detract from the whole - the heartfelt beauty of the music.

They should also note that although he's 76 now, Coleman never let his technique be the end and be all of his playing - as some I can name. His technique is there to convey what he wants to say - and he still has an immense amount to tell us.

I have not liked everything he has done, but it has alwasy struck me how melodic his compositions are - never mind how he breaks them up playing or how quickly he plays them, sometimes so fast you really don't know what it is you've heard.

The only time I felt disappointed was when he came to Ronnie Scott's with his violin and trumpet only, but he plays these instruments here the way he plays his alto - wonderful...

I think this is absolutely great music that you will never tire of, even when you think you have finally assimilated it; it is so emotionally true.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jazzrook TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Feb 2007
Format: Audio CD
This magnificent concert was recorded in Ludwigshafen, Germany in October, 2005 when Ornette Coleman was, astonishingly, in his 76th year. 'Sound Grammar' is his first CD in 10 years and it's fast becoming my favourite album since the classic 1965 trio sessions 'At The Golden Circle, Stockholm' with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett(see my review).

Ornette employs two superb bassists here, Gregory Cohen and Tony Falanga, who combine effectively while his son, Denardo drives things along nicely on drums.

Old and new songs are featured with Ornette playing imaginatively and melodically on alto sax, with occasional colourful bursts of trumpet and violin. The beautifully recorded 'Sound Grammar' is a joyous, uplifting album which should delight his fans and also make an ideal introduction for anyone unfamiliar with Ornette's music.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GlynLuke TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Dec 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ornette Coleman, who is the proud possessor of quite possibly my favourite name of any jazz musician (except Thelonious Sphere Monk, naturally) has made, at the age of 76, one of the most compellingly splendid albums of his long and dignified career.
Sound Grammar - he`s always been good at titles - consists of seven tracks, three of them achingly lovely slower tunes. After the compere`s mercifully brief intro, the opening swift and mercurial Jordan is followed by the gorgeous Sleep Talking, a number you`ll want to listen to for hours.
The great thing about Ornette is that, whatever music he chooses to make, he rarely forgets to be lyrical. As another reviewer implies, the New Orleans street parade is never far from his music, and there`s usually a keening sweetness tempering even his wildest excursions. There are a few rampant, abandoned passages on this disc, mainly on the faster tracks, but overall one is captivated by a resplendent beauty, a kind of distillation of decades of making groundbreaking but invariably melodic jazz. "Is it jazz?" I don`t think it matters any more; surely we can simply call it music and forget the dogmas of genre. (Of course it`s jazz!)
Ornette plays sax - the `real` variety, having now seemingly forsaken his toy sax of many years` deployment - as well as trumpet & violin, with his son Denardo sensitive and superb on drums & percussion, and a duo of basses: Greg Cohen & Tony Falanga, who work well together.
The gratifyingly lengthy album ends with Song X, an Ornette `hit`, and it`s good to hear it again. The group sound pleased to be playing it too.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Witter on 1 Feb 2007
Format: Audio CD
No exageration. This has to be one of the greatest jazz records ever made. I like most of Ornette's output throughout 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. This is like a summary. Even though its essentially acoustic it has jazz skits, blues cries, country themes, classic resonances and basically some of the most moving pieces of music I have heard.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
The Return of Ornette Coleman!!!! 13 Sep 2006
By Louie Bourland - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Jazz legend Ornette Coleman has returned with his first new album in over a decade, "Sound Grammar". Recorded live in Germany in October 2005, "Sound Grammar" is a major throwback to the sound that made Ornette famous in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Here, he performs the music in a stripped down quartet setting consisting of himself on alto sax, trumpet and violin, his son Denardo on drums and a dual bass section of Gregoary Cohen and Tony Falanga.
As you would expect, the performances are loaded with Ornette's freeform interplay with plenty of jolts and surprises. The opening track "Jordan" would not at all sound out of place alongside Ornette's classic album "The Shape of Jazz To Come" while "Sleep Talking" is a haunting mood piece that features an excellent spotlight on the two bassists - Tony Falanga is especially impressive with his ghostly bowed strokes.
Elsewhere on the album are intense moments such as those heard in "Matador" and "Waiting For You". "Once Only" is just plain bizarre with its sax lead lines that don't stick to any one key accompanied by equally meandering bass lines and rhythmless drumming.
The highlights of the album will no doubt have to be the two piece which will be familar to longtime Ornette followers. "Turnaround", while presented in a slightly different context here, is a classic Ornette blues originally from 1958. The rhythm is less straightforward here than on the original version and almost tends to go into doubletime without actually fully going into it. "Song X" was originally from 1985 and was the title track to his classic collaboration with guitar great Pat Metheny. Ornette's version here extends the piece to 10-minutes and includes great solo spots from everyone. Denardo's drum solo is a real standout here as is Ornette's shreiking violin solo which follows the drums.
After over a decade of absence from the spotlight audio-wise, it's great to finally have a brand new CD by Ornette Coleman after a long wait. This CD presents Ornette in a revitalized manner and is probably his best work in years. As mentioned above, the music is similar to his classic early work and has plenty of energy and surprises.
For the diehard Ornette fan, "Sound Grammar" is a definite must and dare I say it, this is also recommended as a great first buy for those just discovering Ornette's music despite it being a brand new CD.
Classic Ornette for the 21st Century!!!
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
A welcome return. 2 Oct 2006
By Michael Stack - Published on
Format: Audio CD
For a moment in the mid-1990s, it looked as though Ornette Coleman, one of the visionaries of jazz, was entering a period of heightened activity-- no less than four albums were released in about 18 months and through his then-record label Harmolodic's partnership with Verve. Add to this several key reissues and it looked like a renaissance for Coleman-- but corporate mergers changed all this and the emphasis in jazz shifted from exploratory to "safe" and the seeming golden days of free jazz reissues and new Ornette Coleman albums came to a grinding halt.

A decade later, Coleman seems significantly more active, with a new band playing sporadic shows, including the one captured on "Sound Grammar", taken from a late 2005 show in Germany. For a luminary such as Coleman to release something new would alone be cause for celebration-- for that album to be fantastic (as this one is) makes it really special.

In case you're unfamiliar with Coleman-- Ornette Coleman, a Texas born alto saxophonist, stumbled upon something really new in jazz. A system by which the key and changes of the music become significantly less important, instead the moment of the music is what matters. This music, termed free jazz by the press and Harmolodics by Coleman, has propelled a career spanning nearly 50 years now, from the early classic quartet recordings to the electric free funk Coleman would later explore. His music is not for everyone-- it's lack of reliance of regular pattern can leave one hanging and his alto playing can often be rather angular, but Coleman in his own way is a natural extension of Charlie Parker and is being recognized for his accomplishments.

This particular recording features Coleman on alto, trumpet and violin (although he barely plays the latter two), his son Denardo on drums, and a pair of bassists-- Tony Falanga (who I'm unfortunately fairly unfamiliar with) and Greg Cohen (best known as the anchor for John Zorn's Masada). Ornette tends to blow over the top of the band, with Falanga running arco counter and Denardo and Cohen supplying both a rhythmic pulse and a free association with the melody voices. At times, one is reminded as much of Coleman's older material as Albert Ayler's bands with cello or violin, albeit with a somewhat "cleaner" sound. Coleman resurrects three classics for the performance-- "Song X" from the album of the same name from 1985, "Sleep Talking" from 1979's "Of Human Feelings", and "Turnaround" drawn from 1959's "Tomorrow is the Question". The remaining five pieces are new.

Like Coleman's best recordings, this one has that endless sense of ecstatic freedom to it-- racing figures ("Jordan"), deep grooves ("Call to Duty") and a bizarrely angular lyricism ("Waiting For You") filter throughout. The quartet's performance is tightly in sync-- it's hard to point out any one performer, although as a fan of Greg Cohen's, I can't help but marvel at his ability to lock in sync with a drummer while constantly being ready to respond to the solo voice-- his performances with Denardo are nothing short of staggering. Likewise Falanga has such an odd focus for a bassist in jazz, his arco performances throughout can be frantic and explosive ("Turnaround") or delicate and gentle (check his theme statement on "Once Only"). Coleman for his part sounds pretty much the same as he always does-- unique, visionary, and ahead of his time, even fifty years later.

This is an album that's going to appeal to fans, but like Coleman's best work, it's as welcome an introduction to his music as anything else. If you're new to him, this is a great start, but don't shy away from "The Shape of Jazz to Come" or "Dancing In Your Head" if you enjoy this. If you're an old hat, this one's right up your alley. Highly recommended.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A vital force in jazz 17 Oct 2006
By Tim Niland - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Of the few remaining legends in jazz, Ornette Coleman is the only one that doesn't record fairly often. 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 and a recording of a concert from Germany in 2005 where he performed on alto saxophone, violin and trumpet with 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 with 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" fell to the melody. Ornette has a gently sweeping solo over a bed of bass and drums. The group gets a beautifully unique sound with Ornette's keening alto and two basses. "Matador" takes things on 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.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
More Soapsuds? 20 Sep 2006
By Hank Schwab - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This CD reminds me, for obvious reasons, of his 1977 duet album with Charlie Haden, "Soapsuds Soapsuds". Not only is the instrumentation similar (mostly bass and Ornette), but the lyricism is also similar. Most listeners will not find this as jarring as some of Ornette's output, although this is still adventurous stuff. One pleasant surprise is Coleman's playing on trumpet and violin. This time out, he doesn't seem to be just farting around, and the results are some pretty fair playing. "Soapsuds" is probably my favorite Ornette album, and this one comes in pretty close.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Exciting but apart from 3 cuts it's far from top rate Ornette 5 Oct 2007
By James E. Anderson - Published on
Format: Audio CD
1. The sound quality is sometimes poor, particularly the drumset, with the sounds of the individual instruments merging together in an indistinct mess. The audience applause after solos irritates me too.

2. The music is typically Ornette: as he's said in the past, in a sense he's been playing the same tune most of his career. In this live performance he continues the tradition, re-using his elegant licks: a type of bebop as a previous reviewer stated. Sure it may seem very old-fashioned by now but the soulful execution is usually timeless. (Mozart used an already well established musical language but trancended any need to develop it.)

There's very little of Coleman's idiosyncratic trumpet and violin work which after my 30 years as an Ornette fan I find generally more exciting than his sax playing. (For example the cut Falling Star from a live concert in Copenhagen 1965 has some delicious offerings of both: see "all my reviews".)

3. With regard to the drumset work by Denardo, as well as being poorly recorded it tends to a busy, unrelenting style often with simplistic ride cymbal overkill which for me is often quite irritating. If only he could appreciate silence and more of a sense of space - in some of the more reflective passages I longed for a total absence of percussion. Still, as Coleman often seems to favor what some people have unflatteringly called "scrambled egg music", the drumset style and arrangements may be at Coleman's direction.

The good:

5 stars for the beautiful rendition of "Sleep Talking" which makes this CD a must have for my collection of about 30 albums under the Ornette name.

5 stars for the elegantly arranged "Waiting for You" which also has tasty individual performances, particularly the arco bass work and Coleman's sax work.

5 stars for "Once Only", again an elegant arrangement which tells a story over time.

Overall, for those new to Ornette: there are much better Coleman albums available with superior drumming and groove. (E.g. Ornette! recorded Jan 1961 with drumming to die for by Ed Blackwell, very tasty bass playing from the brilliant Scott LeFaro and some excellent work by Don Cherry on pocket trumpet.)
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