Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recent Listening: People Playing Ornette

The passing of Charlie Haden back in July led me to listening to plenty of his work with Ornette Coleman. Starting with some albums I am quite familiar with (The Shape of Jazz To Come, Change of The Century and This Is Our Music and the duo record Soapsuds, Soapsuds) and moving on to one I hadn't heard before (In All Languages). That led me to some albums of Haden playing Ornette Tunes sans Coleman - two volumes of The Montreal Tapes. The first with Paul Bley and Paul Motian and other with Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, which in turn led me to a few other albums featuring the work of Coleman.

Paul Plimley and Lisle Ellis
Kaleidoscopes (Hat Art)

I was unfamiliar with both Plimley (piano) and Ellis (bass) but my keenness to hear various takes on the music of Ornette Coleman led to grab this album. According to the liner notes, they started working as a duo since 1980. By the time Kaleidoscopes was recorded (1992) the had developed a great rapport. Ellis' tone is rich and woody (the bass sounds unamplified), complementing Plimley's light touch. Both musicians can swiftly fly around their instruments but I never felt it was "chops for chops sake."

I wasn't surprised that seven of the 11 tunes come from the quartet recordings on Atlantic, but I was pleased they included some less common tunes. Yes, "Chronology," "Peace" and "Beauty Is A Rare Thing" are present but so too are "Street Woman," "Long Time No See" and "Moon Inhabitants."

I believe this album is out-of-print (my copy came from Academy Records on 18th St. during a recent trip to NYC), it's been getting a fair fair bit of airplay in the apartment and I encourage fans of Coleman's music to hunt it out.

Paul Bley - Notes On Ornette (Steeplechase) 1997

Paul Bley is one of my favourite pianists and listening to the album above made me give this trio disc (with Jay Anderson (b) Jeff Hirshfield (d)) a spin too. Comparing the two, Bley's is probably more approachable for those coming from a "straight ahead" background - it's more conventional with the rhythm section walking and Bley blowing on top. Okay, so that description sells the album short, but I'm speaking in very general terms - there's a lot more to it that.

Whereas solo works by Bley tend to be somewhat reflective (at least from what I've heard so far), when playing with a rhythm section there's an energy and rhythmic push that Bley puts into his notes that differs from the solo works.

Bley contributes one original (which fits the flow of the album) with the rest of the material coming from Coleman. Five tunes from his albums on Contemporary Records and one ("Crossroads") that was captured live at the Hillcrest Club in 1958 (with Bley on piano) and may have appeared later on Atlantic (I'm writing from memory). It seems to make sense that Bley would choose material from the period in which he was playing with Coleman. As a long standing champion of Coleman's music it is a shame that there are no studio recordings of the two together.

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