28 dic. 2008


Ornette. Sound Grammar

This was the live recording for which recently Ornette won the Nobel prize for general all-around genius. He has two bass players, a drummer (Denardo Coleman, his son), and himself on alto sax, trumpet, and violin. (Well, at least a Grammy and a Pulitzer). I've listened to it many times: an hour's worth of very worthwhile music.

The first tune is Jordan, a fast number where Ornette on sax plays a very assertive improvisation to begin. Then the basses do their thing. Ornette comes in again at the end.

Sleep Talking is a slow, haunting melody, kind of like Ornette's previous "Lonely Woman." I love this song. The middle is a little bit rambling. You know the joke? A couple is brought into a marriage counselor. They won't talk to each other. Finally the counselor brings in a bass player, because "everyone talks during the bass solo." When two basses are soloing at once, that can be even worse.

Turnaround comes next. A blues with a very simple melody, played medium slow. Ornette is a very bluesy player.

Then Matador, with a Latin feel. A tune similar to Ornette's "Latin Genetics" in some way, though not quite as bouncy.

I recently saw Ornette dissed in Downbeat by Benny Golson, who did not mention him by name but called him bogus. Ornette told Golson he was using the tenor clef to write music. Golson makes the comment to the interviewer that there is no such thing as the tenor clef! Well, I hate to say it, but actually there is such a thing.

Waiting for You is another Ornettian ballad, with a melody not quite so distinctive. I kind of wish he would stick to sax, and leave the violin and trumpet alone.

Call to Duty is a rousing appeal to action, at a rousing tempo. Once Only is slower again. The album concludes with Song X, which reminds me that I saw Ornette on the Song X tour with Pat Matheny, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, and Denardo, back in the 1980s, in Ithaca, New York. Bob Basil drove down from Buffalo to go to the concert with me and a Cuban friend of mine, Jorge Hernández, who was a grad student at Cornell in Spanish.