The Music Box's #2 concert recording of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by John Metzger
Ornette Coleman has spent so much of his career looking forward that itís strange to see him revisiting some of the stylistic moves from his past. Nevertheless, on his latest endeavor Sound Grammar ó which not only marks the debut of his self-owned label, but also stands as his first recording in 10 years and his first live set in two decades ó he forsakes the challengingly dense, electric funk of his long-running outfit Prime Time in order to once again revel in the open framework of an acoustic-oriented quartet.
Much like his pursuits during the 1960s, Coleman currently is working with a band that features two bass players (Gregory Cohen and Tony Falanga) and a drummer (Denardo Coleman), and the interaction among the musicians provides an insightful demonstration of his "harmolodic" approach. The basic concept behind his theory is that all of the instrumentalists ought to share equal footing as they converse in the language of music ó that is, the harmonies and melodies from which songs are constructed. Throughout Sound Grammar, Coleman performs on saxophone as well as on violin and trumpet, while Cohen and Falanga pluck and bow their basses, respectively. Within the outingís sparse atmosphere, where each sound is defined so distinctly, it becomes relatively easy to hear how Coleman brings everything together with his lyrical punctuation.
Yet, Sound Grammar is more than just an accessible waltz through Colemanís previously explored concepts. Instead, as tangled melodies and restless grooves collide, the outing becomes an invigorating, career-spanning revision of them. Over the course of the hour-long showcase, Coleman and his ensemble rumble through free-jazz, funk, bop, and blues, twisting the styles together as they tuck a pair of updated classics (Turnaround and Song X) amidst a series of equally potent new compositions. Some have suggested of late that Colemanís visionary days have passed him by, but from the rambunctiously frenetic rhythms of Jordan and Call to Duty to the dusky yearning of Sleep Talking, the material on Sound Grammar provides proof that he is as vital, vibrant, edgy, and imaginative as ever.
Sound Grammar is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box