Thursday 11 October, 2007

Ornette Coleman - Sound Museum: Hidden Man (1994)

When Ornette Coleman debuted his electric Prime Time band, 20 years ago, its amplified guitars, electric bass, and funky beat alienated many of his oldest fans. His two splendid new releases, Sound Museum: Three Women and Sound Museum: Hidden Man (Harmolodic/Verve), feature a new acoustic quartet with pianist Geri Allen, bassist Charnett Moffett, and drummer Denardo Coleman -- and will undoubtedly win some old fans back. But don't be misled by the title or the instrumentation. This museum is not about preserving the past. The music sounds closer in spirit to Prime Time than to Coleman's original piano-less quartets of the late '50s and early '60s.

Without question, the primary reason these two albums sound so modern and so little like Coleman's earlier quartets is the presence of his son, Denardo, on drums. In the denser, more tangled ensemble of Prime Time, it's harder to hear exactly what Denardo contributes. On these albums, it's evident how essential he is to Ornette's music. Denardo is often criticized for not swinging, and he doesn't in any usual sense. He isn't a funk or rock drummer. His sense of time entirely his own. Although he is unique -- even eccentric -- he is also a sensitive musician. He reacts to the music around him instantly, but his responses are hardly ever the expected ones.Without question, the primary reason these two albums (which include different takes of the same pieces and are sold separately) sound so modern and so little like Coleman's earlier His fills, which can sound as random as tumbling rocks or falling boxes, are in reality exactly positioned and never interrupt the flow of the music.

If Denardo provides a rhythmic link to Prime Time, the quartet's ensemble approach also recalls the orchestral sound of the electric group. With Allen playing both chords and single-note lines, and Moffett alternating between plucking and bowing, the density of sound is always in flux, and a variety of textures are woven through the fabric of the music -- just as guitars, keyboards, and percussion vary the density and textures in Prime Time. As is the case with the electric band, each member of the quartet can move at his or her own tempo, and the rhythmic center of the music disperses and converges as the players move in and out of synch. On the version of "Women of the Veil" on Hidden Man, Moffett shadows Ornette while Allen creates soft clouds of sounds by playing chords with the damper pedal down. When Moffett switches to dark, sinuous bowing, Allen responds with single-note lines that penetrate the thick mass of sound. Denardo rushes to double the time, then backs off. Ornette has said that Prime Time is an outfit composed all of leaders; so are the members of this quartet. They are a group making a music with four centers, yet they remain committed to collective unity.

Ornette himself reveals a freshness that belies his years (he's 66). When he plays, there are seemingly no barriers between feeling and sound, or thought and sound. And he never repeats himself. The two versions of the Mexican-flavored "P.P. (Piccolo Pesos)" are a good example. On Three Women, his improvisation is a nimble folk dance that flows around Denardo's colorful array of cowbells, wood blocks, and rumbling toms. Hidden Man's version finds Ornette pecking at the notes of the solo in a series of nervous hops and jumps while Denardo clumps and cantors beneath. In contrast, Hidden Man's "Monsieur Allard" is elliptical and purposely disjointed. Ornette plays variations on the theme, discards them for a seemingly unrelated set of themes and variations, shifts into long rapid sequences of squiggles and squeals, and ends with sotto voce mutterings that fade into the ensemble. Whether his solo is simple or complex, Ornette's every note is drenched in the blues, evoking the power of the human voice.
The tunes played on the Sound Museum CDs are the same, except for one track on each: Hidden Man features a variation on "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"; Three Women includes "What Reason," with vocalists Chris Walker and Lauren Kinhan. There are several new compositions, but Coleman has recorded much of the material before. "European Echoes" dates back to his 1965 trio recordings, Live at the Golden Circle (Blue Note). He recorded "Home Grown" and "Macho Woman" with Prime Time on Body Meta in 1975. (Body Meta and another Artists House release, Soapsuds, Soapsuds, a duet with bassist Charlie Haden, are both slated for reissue by Harmolodic/Verve in September.) But in turning to older material, Coleman is not reviving the past so much as celebrating the present and welcoming the future.

1. Sound Museum
2. Monsieur Allard
3. City Living
4. What Reason
5. Home Grown
6. Stopwatch
7. Women Of The Veil
8. P.P. (Picolo Pesos)
9. Biosphere
10. Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow
11. European Echoes
12. What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Variation)
13. Mob Job
14. Macho Woman

Ornette Coleman: saxophone, trumpet, violin
Denardo Coleman: drums
Charnett Moffett: bass
Geri Allen: piano

link @192 [Re-Up]


bravo juju said...

The Ewings would be much obliged if someone could share "Three Women" as a complement to this

marramua said...

Great record! like all ornette records.

Three Women coming soon..

bravo juju said...

thanks for that, marramua!
please check his Three Women post here:

Anonymous said...

fuckin' hell! death to the infidel who deleted this file!!

bravo juju said...

another one??? hmmmm. will try to re-up it as soon as possible. please bear with us.

Anonymous said...

Oh well, thanks for trying.

Great looking blog here, am enjoying the writing.


bravo juju said...

Fresh link.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

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