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Sound Grammar Live
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You never know quite what to expect from an Ornette Coleman record, even after all these years. Though if you've seen him in concert in the last couple of years, you'll have some idea; this wonderful disc is a record of his most recent band, recorded live in Germany in 2005.
The line up of two basses (Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga) and drums (the ever present Denardo Coleman) is an echo of the Charlie Haden/David Izenson/Charles Moffat quartet that toured in the 1960s. It's certainly a far cry from the dense hyperactive scribble of Prime Time, and more than a little reminiscent of the open, airy explorations of the classic At The Golden Circle albums.
The material is mostly new, though some pieces sound familiar. "Sleep Talking" (which may or not be related to an earlier tune calles "Sleep Walking") has a dolorous, achingly beautiful melody that sounds like it might have been around forever, just waiting for Ornette to pluck it out of the air.
Ornette's alto remains one of the most recognisable sounds on the planet. Throughout this performance he sends out a continuous stream of melody. Not that this is news of course; that's what he's always done. But here (unlike Prime TIme) he's given more space to breathe, and the results are frequently jawdroppingly beautiful. Coleman's trumpet playing has always remained a bit of a mystery to me, but his occasional bursts of sawed violin give a nicely visceral thrill.
Cohen's warm yet urgent pizzicato thrums lock with Denardo's fractured swing, while Falanga's bowed lines shadow the leader's swoops and flurries, breaking off into luscious, spicy microtonal glisses. Whether Cohen and Falanga understand Ornette's Harmolodic theory anymore than anyone else, I can't say; but that this lineup is the best expression of Coleman's muse for some years is (for me anyway) beyond doubt.
Beauty is a rare thing indeed. --Peter Marsh
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
I can only say that, if you are at all into the kind of music you`re unlikely to hear on almost any radio station - other than late at night on R3 perhaps - then do please make sure you listen to Ornette in his golden-autumn years. The man`s 82 now, and it will be a sombre day when he... but no, the man is alive as anyone or anything, and still making wonderful music.
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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