Reportedly, Ornette Coleman did not have a great affinity for pianists, but it was the instrumentrather than the musiciansthat put Coleman off. As an innovator in free jazz, Coleman found the chordal instrument too intrusive and preferred a more sympathetic bass/soloist interaction. Coleman did record with pianists Geri Allen and Paul Bley, but he established a regular touring schedule of duo performances with Joachim Kuhn. Coleman and Kühn only recorded together on Colors: Live from Leipzig (Verve, 1997). That outing saw the two artists take the decidedly idiosyncratic approach of working in separate spaces and only occasionally crossing paths. The German pianist now pays solo tribute to Coleman on Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII.
Thirteen of the fourteen compositions on this album are Coleman compositions, with Kühn's personal tribute, "The End Of The World," closing the album as a "bonus track." The Coleman pieces are bookended with the two versions of the regularly covered "Lonely Woman." The first is subtitled "Rambling," a fine improvised rendition compared to the staid but slightly quirky "Ballad" near the album's conclusion. Each "Lonely Woman" is intriguing in its own way. Between them are pieces that may surprise Coleman fans, as most have never been recorded before. One may be able to imagine compositions such as "Lost Thoughts," "Physical Chemistry," and "Hidden Chemistry" being worked through Coleman's plastic alto saxophone, but it's a stretch given Kühn's laconic and ethereal readings. "Songworld," "Immeriscible Most Capable Of Being," and "Somewhere" are elegant, with quiet power behind them.
Kühn allows his instincts to guide him through the material as if it were his own. Despite the title, Melodic Ornette Coleman is more about the brilliant pianist who remains sadly overlooked in the U.S. His choice of these unknown Coleman pieces accentuates the saxophonist's broader palette and ability to craft accessible tunes, at least as interpreted in Kühn's capable hands.
Lonely Woman; Lost Thoughts; Immeriscible Most Capable Of Being; Songworld; Physical Chemistry; Tears That Cry; Aggregate And Bound Together; Hidden Knowledge; Love Is Not Generous, Sex Belongs To Woman; She And He Is Who Fenn Love; Somewhere; Food Stamps On The Moon; Lonely Woman; The End Of The World.
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