Fractious Grammar

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Pick Hits

Ornette Coleman
Sound Grammar
Sound Grammar

Nothing for 10 years, then he repeats a scam he pulled 20 years ago with Opening the Caravan of Dreams: launching a new label with a live album named for the label, or vice versa. Seems cheap, but when sounding like no one else has been your shtick for 50 years, absence makes your reappearances sound even fresher, and working onstage heightens the suspense of your inventions. Actually, Coleman's changed little over the years, still pouring out the same prickly, piercing notes. What's new here is his use of two bassists, which keeps the contrast between Greg Cohen plucking and Tony Falanga bowing in the same register. It also doubles the chaos, which is what he thrives on. A

Ornette Coleman's album Sound Grammar
Ornette Coleman's album Sound Grammar

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See also:
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    Chavez, Sean Lennon, Lou Reed, and more!
    Highlights from this week's music section

  • Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: New Magical Kingdom

    Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra
    New Magical Kingdom
    Clean Feed

    The young bassist lists Mingus first among the inspirations for this group, and no matter how much Bootsy Collins or Melt-Banana he thinks he's adding to the mix, Mingus is the name that sticks. Lane's pieces have the master's grand melodic sweep. The soft spots are sweet and poignant, but the band can bring more noise and sheer orneriness than its body count of two saxes, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums suggests. With the Mingus Big Band looking backward and running on fumes—and archival scraps like At UCLA 1965 of minor interest—the future was looking glum. But Lane draws the right lesson: to boldly break new ground.A MINUS

    Ben Allison
    Cowboy Justice
    Palmetto

    Like Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden, Allison plays bass and writes complex, catchy, often sublime tunes, sometimes with political titles because the billboard space comes free. His "Tricky Dick" concerns Cheney and rolls casually on Steve Cardenas's guitar while firing bird-shot bursts of Ron Horton trumpet—so infectious it stands out on an album where everything stands up. A MINUS

    François Carrier
    Happening
    Leo

    Carrier is an alto saxophonist from Quebec who plays sharp-witted freebop, usually in his tight, long-running trio, expanded here to meet the microtonal challenges of Uwe Neumann's sitar and Mat Maneri's viola. The event was meant to provide an improvised backdrop for dancers—an unseen, unheard presence that may explain how the potential chaos coheres into something physically possible. A MINUS

    Jeff Healey & the Jazz Wizards
    It's Tight Like That
    Stony Plain

    Trad jazz often feels like another lap around the block: old songs, old arrangements, old-fashioned cheer. Chris Barber, a graceful singer with some growl in his trombone, has run that race for 50 years and won it a few times. His guest appearance here rounds out a band that builds on the Hot Club as much as the Big Easy, and completes Healey's own transformation from blind blues guitarist to trumpet king. A MINUS

    Junk Box
    Fragment
    Libra

    Like Ken Vandermark's recent Territory Band albums—two albums totaling five discs—Satoko Fujii's four new big-band albums are overwhelming: In such vast universes, anything can happen, everything does, and fatigue sets in long before one can sort out so many marginal treats. At least with this trio you can keep the players straight. She pounds out thick piano chords, while sidekick Natsuki Tamura's surly trumpet adds tension and growl, and drummer John Hollenbeck referees. Basic Fujii. A MINUS

    Charles Lloyd
    Sangam
    ECM

    Which Way Is East offered two home-recorded discs of Lloyd and Billy Higgins farting around with world beats, reeds, and flutes. After Higgins died, Lloyd rounded up some pros—tabla master Zakir Hussain and trap drummer Eric Harland—for a trio that has the same aim. With nothing but rhythm to work against, Lloyd breaks free, unleashing the Coltrane-isms he's earned the right to call his own. A MINUS

    Paul Motian
    On Broadway Vol. 4
    Winter & Winter

    Fifty years after he came of age in the Bill Evans Trio, Motian may still be jazz's go-to drummer, with a dozen or more new albums over the last two years. But he's not the hardest working. His secret is economy: no flash, nothing so tedious as holding the beat, just a bare minimum to keep everyone on edge. He's stingy enough with this trio-plus-one that he won't let his two guests play on the same cut. Pianist Masabumi Kikuchi warms his spots up, while singer Rebecca Martin cuts hers back to a hushed stroll. In both cases the songs do the work, and Chris Potter's sax fills out the space. A MINUS

    Sonny Rollins
    Sonny, Please
    Doxy

    His first studio album in six years is no more eventful than his average annual checkup over three decades at Milestone. Granted, he sounds exceptionally comfortable, even taking his latest calypso out for a leisurely spin. He also sounds magnificent at any speed. A MINUS

    Thomas Strønen
    Pohlitz
    Rune Grammofon

    Solo improv by a Norwegian drummer who's impeccably Nordic on his ECM album Parish and dabbles in post-rock electronica elsewhere. Here St credits read, "Beatable items, live electronic treatments, music"—not sure whether the latter is a distinct input or merely the sum of the parts. His percussion tones recall Harry Partch, but he does swing some. A MINUS

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