420

Anthony Coleman: Freakish

Warren Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Anthony Coleman: Freakish Great composers put heavy demands on the people who play their music. No matter how long ago they wrote the tunes that continue inspire after they are gone, their presence continues to hover over the music, almost haunting the pianos that would crank out their concertos and rags. It takes work to deal with these ghosts. Perhaps this is why it took Anthony Coleman five years to complete his special tribute of the music of Jelly Roll Morton.

Coleman is perhaps best known as a pianist in the avant-garde vein, with a taste for new music and prepared piano, as well as some of the new Jewish music of the Downtown New York scene. But most anyone who has heard him live has likely heard him indulge his stride fascination with at least a tune or two of Jelly Roll's best. It is a moving experience, which shows the depth and scope of Coleman's abilities. This is not easy music for the performer, but Coleman plays it with the grace and exuberance of a master.

Some of that grace can doubtless be traced to Coleman's teacher, Jaki Byard. A virtuoso king of stride and ragtime piano in his own right, the album is dedicated to Byard, and it seems like the only thing he might have liked better than hearing such a tribute would have been to play along with it.

Even the cover design is lovely, built on an intricate, cinema design in black and white. Tzadik's wonderful graphic designer Heung-Heung "Chippy" Chin invests the package with a history of its own, so that it carries the weight of art even before the music plays. Then the piano unreels Jelly Roll's tunes, and they seem poised to give voice to a whole host of emotions that flicker behind otherwise silent actors.

There is a lot of fun, toe-tapping music here. "Buffalo Blue (Mr. Joe)" is one of many bright moments in a series of danceable tunes bobbing along in the classic barroom style. But amidst all the brightness, there is no denying the occasional notes of darkness. "Freakish" gets two, sharp treatments that starkly depict this balance. The first is more traditional and upbeat, though with subtler hints of something stirring beneath the surface. The latter explores chunky chords of dissonance and harsh key strikes with rhythms teetering on the verge of chaos. Taken as a whole it's a beautiful illustration of the musical soul, conflicted and challenging, but also bright and beyond comparison.

The special touch here is the result of the time Coleman has devoted to getting this music right. Though this is music that has been played many times before, the special tremors that make the piano quake on wobbly knees; the almost sighing pauses between the notes, and the pure feeling exerted within each chapter that makes up Jelly Roll's tunes—these touches make it special. And it is a tribute to Coleman, a distinctive composer in his own right, to hear him get so far inside this music.


Track Listing: Freakish; Fickle Fay Creep (Soap Suds); Buffalo Blues (Mr. Joe); Frances (Fat Frances); Mr. Jelly Lord; Mamanita; Pretty Lil; The Pearls; Frog-I-More; The Crave; Mama's Got A Baby; Freakish (Version 2); King Porter Stomp.

Personnel: Anthony Coleman: piano.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Tzadik | Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Sanctuary" CD/LP/Track Review Sanctuary
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 22, 2016
Read "The Havana Sessions" CD/LP/Track Review The Havana Sessions
by James Nadal
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "The Long Good Friday OST" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Good Friday OST
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "Dream Keeper" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Keeper
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 27, 2016
Read "Ignacio" CD/LP/Track Review Ignacio
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!