Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar

Steve Smith

By Steve Smith

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Sound Grammar

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman's first new album in a decade, Sound Grammar, documents the iconic alto-sax maverick's stunning current band, an all-acoustic group with two bassists, at a German concert on October 14, 2005. This particular album is less about pushing in new directions and more about acknowledging and extending the strengths that have shaped Coleman's style from the very beginning: melodic generosity, a healthy disregard for rules and, always, a deep blues feel at the core of his conception. The strongest attraction here, really, is the powerful performances that this particular band produces.

A stunning document of an innovator at work

Bowing his instrument in classical style, Tony Falanga provides keening accompaniment and vigorous counterpoint to the leader's bluesy ebullience; Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, John Zorn), anchors the band with his rock-steady pulse. Denardo Coleman, the saxophonist's son, remains an idiosyncratic drummer, but he's at his best here. The set includes familiar numbers such as “Sleep Talking,” “Song X” and the classic “Turnaround,” but close watchers will also recognize a few more recent tunes presented here under new names. A miraculously clear recording by Chris Agovino lays clear every strand in the quartet's intricate weave. With this release, Coleman assumes control of his artistic destiny with the establishment of his own label. With any luck, we'll see Coleman albums more frequently than we have in recent decades.