Ornette Coleman: Embraceable You
Ornette Coleman (alto sax)
This Is Our Music (Atlantic 1353)
Composed by George & Ira Gershwin.
Recorded: New York, July 26, 1960
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
I'm still waiting for them to release Ornette Plays the George Gershwin Songbook. But in the meantime, I can continue to enjoy this unusual entry in the discography of the Master of Free Jazz Saxophony. The young Ornette (or the old Ornette, for that matter) never had much time for the American popular song tradition. True, on his first record back on the Coast, the band played the changes of standards behind his alto solos, but this was more a stopgap than a conscious aesthetic preference. Yet here, in the midst of his musical revolution, Coleman records "Embraceable You," and shows -- surprise! -- that he is an effective balladeer. I have always dug the plaintive wail of Coleman's best alto work, that deep moan that sounds (to my ears) like an authentic cry from the heart. When you get to brass tacks, this raw soulfulness is not much different than what Ben Webster or Stan Getz or the other great jazz ballad players brought to their performances. I can't help wishing Coleman had done more in this vein, and had given us (like Coltrane did) a whole LP of ballads. At least we can content ourselves with this moving track.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia