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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dave Liebman: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman

There are two dominant strains of modern saxophonic thinking—those of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Trane's concept was mainly harmonic, and Ornette's was mainly melodic. Dave Liebman is a Coltrane guy, by practice, admission, and clear inclination.

On his latest quartet disc, however, he applies his Coltrane-ishness to the music of Coleman, to fine and pleasing results. Read my full PopMatters review of Dave Liebman: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman right HERE.

Liebman's method is primarily to have his excellent guitarist, Vic Juris, play explicitly the implies harmonies behind Coleman's melodies. As a result, a tune like "Bird Food" sounds like the bebop it always, kind of, was. Other tunes that already had a strong harmonic base, such as "Kathelyn Grey" (first recorded by Ornette with Pat Metheny), sound right at home.

The most intriguing transformation here is probably “Lonely Woman”, Coleman’s most famous and compelling melody. The original was beautiful but unsettling, a tune that seemed to grow organically, note by note, but in a direction that wasn’t expected. Liebman’s version is set against a space-aged drone of swelling electric guitar and atmospherics, then played on a wooden flute to give it the exotic flavor of the east. Listening to this “Lonely Woman”, you get the feeling that you are peering through a jungle canopy, into the mist. Is it a fair interpretation of Coleman’s music? Well, it’s rich with feeling, so: yes.

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