Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar CD Review

"I seek to play pure emotion"--Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman Sound Grammar

With the record industry in a slump and jazz music progressively marginalized, few releases can claim to represent a true cultural event. Ornette Coleman's new CD, Sound Grammar is precisely that, for at least three different reasons:

    After a long career of daring epoch making music, finally the establishment has recognized Mr.Coleman's stature. The CD was awarded the highest American cultural award, the Pulitzer Prize. It is his the first recording in a decade, the first live one in 20 years. And it comes out on Mr.Coleman's new label, a testament to his vitality at age 77, allowing us to anticipate more to come. In the quest for definitions of his music,Mr.Coleman introduces the concept of sound grammar.

--Ornette, the communicator.

Insert Sound Grammar in your music device, and just let go. What you will get is an astonishing mix of ideas, lyricism, excitement and sheer beauty. The freshness and assertiveness of Mr.Coleman sound speaks both to those who have followed his career for the last fifty years and to people listening for the first time. Call it jazz if you wish, yet this music, encompasses and transcends many musical traditions: it is a soundtrack for our age. "Sound Grammar is to music what letters are to language. Music is a language of sounds that transforms all human languages," writes Mr.Coleman. The man who revolutionizing jazz, extracting from his instrument "ghost notes" imitators are still baffled by, composed for symphony orchestras, and made excursions into traditional Moroccan music, today is aiming at a universal sound. This CD might sound at times more accessible than previous recordings without losing any of their intricate beauty. Rather Mr.Coleman has distilled his harmonic and rhythmic richness to the point of making it appear deceptively simple. --Ornette, the innovator.

The CD captures a live concert which took place in Ludwigshafen, Germany in October 2005. It features a two bass quartet with Ornette Coleman on alto sax, violin and trumpet, his son Denardo on drums, Gregory Cohen (mostly plucking) and Tony Falanga (mostly bowing) on basses. Following a spoken introduction, the band performs eight original Coleman tunes including a version of "Turnaround" from the 1959 Tomorrow is the Question and "Sleep Talking" which mirrors "Sleep Talk" from the 1979 Of Human Feeling and the closing "Song X" from Mr.Coleman's 1985 collaboration with Pat Metheny. -- Ornette the creator of beauty.

Throughout the CD, the interplay between composition and interpreter, between the instrumentalists, and between tonal and rhythmic elements creates a vast landscape in which polished beauty arises from the rawest of emotions. At every junction the band seems to be breathing the same breath, becoming one. In Sleep Talking Mr.Coleman begins by quoting the opening of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring to then proceed on a tightrope of sparse notes set against the meandering dialogue of the two basses. The music flows seamlessly from revisited blues ("Turnaround" and "Once Only") to unknown territories. The band dilates and contracts from solo to duo, trio and quartet with Coleman's distinctive voice-like sax, introducing the themes. His trumpet can be heard in the rhythmically driven "Jordan" while his violin is highlighted in the ten and a half minute "Song X". As often with Coleman, this music does not sound like a point of arrival but rather like a new beginning.For the past half a century Mr.Coleman's work has turned inside out musical conventions to the point that new words were needed to describe it. The critics, misunderstanding his early compositional style, labeled it free jazz. He subsequently came up with the term Harmelodics which is now morphed into Sound Grammar. --Ornette the theoretician.

The beauty of this music is its immediacy. One can simply follow the melodic lines that appear and disappear through the rhythmic warp and weft created by the drum and basses. It is music for the head and the soul, it speaks the unsayable. --Ornette, the iconoclast.

Steve CannonTribes