Jamaaladeen Tacuma: For the Love of Ornette (2011)
This is almost too good to be true: an "almost" Ornette Coleman album, blowing in out of the blue. Coleman isn't the leader on the set, but he's here, sounding as strong and true as ever.
Bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma joined the alto saxophonist/free jazz pioneer's electric Prime Time Group in the mid-'70s, contributing to Dancing in Your Head (Polygram, 1976) and Body Meta (Verve, 1976). With For the Love of Ornette, he teams with and pays tribute to his old boss and mentor.
"Journey," a short poem penned by Tacuma and Wadud Ahmad (who speaks it as well) opens the set, with Coleman's keening plastic alto crying indistinctive, plaintive, full of wisdom. Then Coleman says: "Fella? Fellas? Can you hear me? Forget the notes and get to the idea."
The band takes this advice to heart, beginning with the title tune, a four-part suite with Coleman front and center, accompanied by rumbling drums and joined, in short order, by the sharp pop of Tacuma's electric bass. It's one of the more entropic tunes of the set, almost as calamitous as Free Jazz (Atlantic Records, 1961), with Coleman's alto saxophone singing inside a sweet cacophony of tenor sax, flute and piano/bass/drums.
"East Wind," tagged as "Movement 1" of "For the Love of Ornette," is reminiscent of Coleman's Sound Museum: Hidden Man (Harmolodic/Verve, 1996), in part due to the use of piano, an instrument with which Coleman hasn't often recorded. Coleman sits out on "Drum & Space," and Wolfgang Puschnig takes the lead, alternating between flute and hojak, for a serpentine Eastern feeling inside Tacuma's thick Western groove.
"Tacuma Song," Coleman's lone songwriting contribution to this set of otherwise Tacuma originals, caterwauls to life with the entanglement of alto and Tony Kofi's tenor sax lines recalling Coleman's work with Dewey Redman.
"Forthworth Funky Stomp" is a super-soulful romp, a "get up and dance, dance hard and free" tune that hearkens back to classic high-energy R&B, while "Celestial Conversations" opens with a pensive bass/alto sax reverie. The rest of the band soon eases into a delicate balance of piano and flute, tenor and drums, gathering momentum and strength until introspection again reasserts itself. This is the loveliest of tunes, the band sounding as if they've discovered a collective peace.
The set wraps up without Coleman on "Vibe on This OC" and "Celebration on Prince Street." Not mere padding, both tunes groove with a deep soulful feeling that closes out a celebration, For the Love of Ornette
Track Listing: Journey; For the Love of Ornette; For the Love of Ornette: East Wind, Movement 1; For the Love of Ornette: Drum & Space, Movement 2; Tacuma Song; For the Love of Ornette: Fort Worth Funky Stomp, Movement 3; Tacuma Song: Celestial Conversations, Movement 1; Tacuma Song: Vibe on This OC, Movement 2; Tacuma Song: Celebration on Prince Street, Movement 3.
Personnel: Jamaaladeen Tacuma: bass guitar; Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7), wisdom; Tony Kofi: tenor saxophone; Wolfgang Puschnig: flute, hojak; Yoichi Uzeki: piano; Justin Faulkner: acoustic drums; Wadud Ahmad: spoken word (1); David "Fingers" Hayes: finger drums (4, 8, 9).