Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Oct. 27, 2006
Sound Grammar (Phase Text)
While Texas jazz legend Ornette Coleman has mellowed considerably over the decades, it's a sign of how the times have finally caught up with his visionary, harmolodic approach to improvising when you realize how relatively accessible his music has become. It wasn't always this way for the iconoclastic, Fort Worth-born alto saxophonist who touched off a music revolution when he brought his astringent-free jazz to NYC in 1959. Almost a half century later, what's immediately apparent is the joyful, melodic, and songlike quality of the soaring horn lines Coleman suffuses Sound Grammar with from its first notes. His playing retains the rich blues feel and gospel intonations derived from the 76-year-old's formative years on the Lone Star R&B circuit. This live date, recorded last fall in Germany with the same double-bass quartet that enthralled Bass Concert Hall in 2004, brings it all back home, particularly on the bluesy "Turnaround," which dates way back to his second album, Tomorrow Is the Question! Of the remaining tunes, the title track from his acclaimed 1985 project with guitarist Pat Metheny, Song X, and the feverish Latin trill of "Matador" are the most memorable. While dabbling with the trumpet and violin for color, at the end of the day, Sound Grammar is all about Ornette Coleman and his horn, and they both are a pleasure to behold.