Ornette Coleman Tributes: Tiziano Tononi & Makaya Ntshoko


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Tiziano Tononi & The Ornettians
Peace Warriors - Vol. 2 (Forgotten Children)
Soul Note

Makaya Ntshoko & The New Tsotsis
Happy House

It's been 50 years since Ornette Coleman's Five Spot residency pushed jazz inexorably toward its next evolutionary step. Since that time he's left a hefty body that has been largely unexplored. While several of his tunes have become standards ("Lonely Woman," "Happy House," "Focus On Sanity"), there is so much more as these two albums show. Both are also a study in contrasts in how to approach a tribute album.

On first hearing, Tiziano Tononi's Peace Warriors, Vol. 2 sounds scattered. It's loud, messy and seems to have everything thrown into the mix in a haphazard fashion. But repeated listening reveals a method to Tononi's madness. The drummer loves to pay homage to his heroes; earlier tributes to Don Cherry and Rahsaan Roland Kirk were superb and idiosyncratic examples of the genre and the first volume of Peace Warriors was well-received.

While there are some holdovers from that session (reed players Daniele Cavallanti and Achille Succi and violinist Emanuele Parrini) there are some significant differences. The two-bass team has been replaced by a pair of electric guitars; lack of a bass means the sonic orientation of this music leans towards the high end. Like the player he is fêting, Tononi has his own way of doing things. He throws in a barrage of elements that shouldn't fit Coleman's music: guitar feedback, thrash-metal rhythms, sung and spoken word passages (courtesy of the great Italian singer Tiziana Ghiglioni) and bits of electronics. But somehow it's all pulled together in an epic two-disc tribute to the master iconoclast.

While Happy House isn't precisely a tribute to Coleman, four out of the seven tracks are his compositions. Makaya Ntshoko was part of the South African diaspora in Europe in the '60s as Abdullah Ibrahim's (then Dollar Brand) drummer. He eventually settled in Switzerland, backing many players including Joe McPhee, John Tchicai and Mal Waldron. Little was heard from him on disc since the mid '80s until a few years ago when he formed a band, the New Tsotsis (his 1974 Enja debut was called Makaya & the Tsotsis) with some younger Swiss players. This is their second release.

The New Tsotsis approach Coleman's music from their own perspective. Vera Kappeler's very enjoyable piano is part of the reason, Coleman rarely employing the instrument, and tenor saxophonist Andy Scherer sounds more closely allied to Coltrane. Rhythmically, the music hovers closely to free-bop territory and is a little more straightforward than Coleman's. That said, this is a solid session, one getting the sense of joy that Coleman's music can convey and it's good to see some unusual cover choices as well. "Morning Song," an obscure, haunting ballad from the 1965 Golden Circle sessions, should be better known. Ntshoko directs this session, eschewing his earlier bashing style, yet no less driving. His return to active playing is welcome and he benefits greatly from his spirited group.

Tracks and Personnel:

Peace Warriors - Vol. 2 (Forgotten Children)

Tracks: War Orphans; Congeniality; Space Church; Imagine-Sounds; Walkin' East (Buddah Groove); Just For You; Joy Of A Toy; Forgotten Children; The Tribes Of New York; Some Other-Beauty Is A Rare Thing; Focus On Sanity; Street Woman; Lonely Woman; Macho Woman; I heard It Over The Radio; The Legend Of Be-Bop; Un4gotten Strings.

Personnel: Tiziano Tononi: drums, gongs, rain poles, direections in music; Daniele Cavallanti: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, ney flute, Achille Succi: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, b-flat clarinet, Luca Calabrese: trumpet, flugelhorn; Emanuele Parrini: electric violin; Roberto Cecchetto: electric guitar; Simone Massaron: electric guitar, lap steel guitar, fretless guitar, baritone guitar, acoustic slide guitar; Tiziana Ghiglioni: vocals.

Happy House

Tracks: Humpty Dumpty; Open Or Close; Morning Song; One World; I'm Your Pal; Bebbi; Happy House.

Personnel: Makaya Ntshoko: drums; Andy Scherer: tenor saxophone; Vera Kappeler: piano; Stephan Kurmann: bass.

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