A small shock wave rippled through the jazz world two years ago when the saxophonist Ornette Coleman started performing regularly again after a long absence. His new group was an acoustic quartet, unusual for him, and he was suddenly playing some of his older repertoire. Coleman, now 76, rarely looks back, and after rewriting the rules of jazz on three separate occasions, he didn’t seem like one to rest on his laurels. He isn’t. Sound Grammar, his first new recording in ten years, documents a live performance in Ludwigshafen, Germany, last year, and it doesn’t sound like anything else in jazz today. Coleman employs two bassists, Greg Cohen picking and Tony Falanga bowing (plus his own son, Denardo, on drums). Cohen and Falanga create a deep rumbling gallop on up-tempo tunes, and a gentle mourning tone on ballads. Although Coleman’s legend is for structural innovation (and balls—he named his first major release The Shape of Jazz to Come, and was right!), the real pleasure in his music is his saxophone playing, which remains brash and full of urbane yearning. Coleman is now embraced by nearly every jazz institution, but he still plays like a rebel.
Sound Grammar, Sound Grammar Records; September 12.