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Sound Grammar

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 12, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description


When so much jazz is recycled or reissued, a new Ornette Coleman album is cause for celebration. But Sound Grammar, the free-jazz legend's first release in a decade, is special even by his lofty standards. Coleman was 75 when this live-in-Italy set was recorded in 2005. But he sounds pluckier than he has in years. Pared down to its eloquent basics, the music has a rare combination of beauty, power, lift, and melodic immediacy. With two bassists providing contrasting textures and internal drama--Greg Cohen plucks his acoustic instrument while Tony Falanga bows his--Ornette plays with his usual songful brilliance on alto saxophone and also sounds great on trumpet, a secondary instrument on which he usually demonstrates yeoman skills. (He also dabbles on violin.) Sound Grammar could be better engineered--the astute catchall drumming of Ornette's son Denardo Coleman is too far back in the mix and the basses frequently don't have enough presence. But this album stands with Ornette's best. Two of the songs, "Turnaround" and "Song X," are remakes; the rest of the material is just as good. --Lloyd Sachs

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Jordan (after introducing the band members)
  2. Sleep Talking
  3. Turnaround
  4. Matador
  5. Waiting for You
  6. Call to Duty
  7. Once Only
  8. SONGX

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 12, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sound Grammar
  • ASIN: B000GFRE76
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,795 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Jazz legend Ornette Coleman has returned with his first new album in over a decade, "Sound Grammar". Recorded live in Germany in October 2005, "Sound Grammar" is a major throwback to the sound that made Ornette famous in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Here, he performs the music in a stripped down quartet setting consisting of himself on alto sax, trumpet and violin, his son Denardo on drums and a dual bass section of Gregoary Cohen and Tony Falanga.
As you would expect, the performances are loaded with Ornette's freeform interplay with plenty of jolts and surprises. The opening track "Jordan" would not at all sound out of place alongside Ornette's classic album "The Shape of Jazz To Come" while "Sleep Talking" is a haunting mood piece that features an excellent spotlight on the two bassists - Tony Falanga is especially impressive with his ghostly bowed strokes.
Elsewhere on the album are intense moments such as those heard in "Matador" and "Waiting For You". "Once Only" is just plain bizarre with its sax lead lines that don't stick to any one key accompanied by equally meandering bass lines and rhythmless drumming.
The highlights of the album will no doubt have to be the two piece which will be familar to longtime Ornette followers. "Turnaround", while presented in a slightly different context here, is a classic Ornette blues originally from 1958. The rhythm is less straightforward here than on the original version and almost tends to go into doubletime without actually fully going into it. "Song X" was originally from 1985 and was the title track to his classic collaboration with guitar great Pat Metheny. Ornette's version here extends the piece to 10-minutes and includes great solo spots from everyone.
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Format: Audio CD
For a moment in the mid-1990s, it looked as though Ornette Coleman, one of the visionaries of jazz, was entering a period of heightened activity-- no less than four albums were released in about 18 months and through his then-record label Harmolodic's partnership with Verve. Add to this several key reissues and it looked like a renaissance for Coleman-- but corporate mergers changed all this and the emphasis in jazz shifted from exploratory to "safe" and the seeming golden days of free jazz reissues and new Ornette Coleman albums came to a grinding halt.

A decade later, Coleman seems significantly more active, with a new band playing sporadic shows, including the one captured on "Sound Grammar", taken from a late 2005 show in Germany. For a luminary such as Coleman to release something new would alone be cause for celebration-- for that album to be fantastic (as this one is) makes it really special.

In case you're unfamiliar with Coleman-- Ornette Coleman, a Texas born alto saxophonist, stumbled upon something really new in jazz. A system by which the key and changes of the music become significantly less important, instead the moment of the music is what matters. This music, termed free jazz by the press and Harmolodics by Coleman, has propelled a career spanning nearly 50 years now, from the early classic quartet recordings to the electric free funk Coleman would later explore. His music is not for everyone-- it's lack of reliance of regular pattern can leave one hanging and his alto playing can often be rather angular, but Coleman in his own way is a natural extension of Charlie Parker and is being recognized for his accomplishments.
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16 Comments 47 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
Of the few remaining legends in jazz, Ornette Coleman is the only one that doesn't record fairly often. Sonny Rollins had long running deal with Milestone before starting his own label, and Ornette has followed that route in starting his own imprint and releasing Sound Grammar, his first album in nine years and a recording of a concert from Germany in 2005 where he performed on alto saxophone, violin and trumpet with his son Denardo Coleman on drums, Gregory Cohen on bass, and Tony Falanga on bass. The music is classic Coleman with sweeping joyful arcs of alto on some reinterpretations of classics and a few new compositions.

"Jordan" leads things off with a choppy start-stop feel with Ornette improvising over bowed and plucked bass. There's an interlude where the two basses improvise together before Coleman contributes a few trumpet blasts. "Sleep Talking" begins with mournful bowed bass with some light alto sax comments. A bass duet over drums contributes a very open sound to the music. "Turnaround" has an almost "Saints Go Marching In" fell to the melody. Ornette has a gently sweeping solo over a bed of bass and drums. The group gets a beautifully unique sound with Ornette's keening alto and two basses. "Matador" takes things on a faster pace with some jaunty, smiling alto before two basses, both plucked, duke it out before Ornette sweeps back in and takes everybody out.

Both "Waiting" and "Once Only" convey a deep sense of plaintive loss and yearning with Coleman's saxophone nearly crying the blues in these deeply emotional performances. Contrasting those performances are a couple of free up-tempo numbers, "A Call To Duty" and Song X.
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Topic From this Discussion
ornette coleman-sound grammar
live from a Netherlands appearence of fall 2005.Line up:OC,Denardo Coleman drums,Tony Falaga-Greg Cohen basses.Review on September 2006 isuue of The Wire
Aug 25, 2006 by Amazon Customer |  See all 2 posts
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