Modern Jazz Quartet: Lonely Woman

I have mixed feelings about this recording. The Modern Jazz Quartet comprised solid, assured performers who made some great music in their time, but the problem is getting Ornette Coleman's original recording out of my head. The mannered, pensive way that the MJQ takes on this standard of free jazz totally changes the flavor of the piece for this listener. In this setting it becomes a multi-movement suite showcasing the melody, then leading to some mundane transitional ensemble work followed by short highlights from bassist Heath and vibraharpist Jackson. This is more of a study of the 1959 classic, and while the band does what it does well, it's a tough tune to cover.

July 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Marian McPartland: Lonely Woman

Here's a track to fool your snobby jazz friends on a blindfold test. Marian McPartland, on a new CD released a few days before her 90th birthday, records a cover version of an Ornette Coleman tune. And she takes a Free Jazz solo! A smart one, at that. Yes, this is the same Marian McPartland who played in British vaudeville in the 1930s, married trad jazz cornetist Jimmy McPartland in the 1940s, and performed supper club jazz at the Hickory House in the 1950s. Of course that was all more than a half century ago, so why shouldn't Marian go Free nowadays? Bassist Mazzaroppi and drummer Davis evoke the original Coleman recording, but McPartland does her own thang, which is full of soft, angular phrases, tremolos, and various games of consonance and dissonance. I'm not sure that this will replace the Cecil Taylor tracks on my avant-garde playlist, but McPartland gets high marks for keeping her ears open at a time when many far younger players, free or otherwise, are stuck in their own time-warp.

March 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Ornette Coleman: Lonely Woman

We still haven't come to grips with the turbulence unleashed by Free Jazz during the period that started with the Age of Ornette and roughly ended with the Arrival of Wynton. Critics will continue to debate the importance of this body of work. Nonetheless the day is past when anyone could release a recording called The Shape of Jazz to Come -- unless it was meant as a wry post-modern joke. No, this was not the shape of jazz to come, and what promised to be the final destination of the jazz idiom proved to be one more passing phase. But the best examples of the Free Jazz aesthetic continue to exert their power, and few are more potent than this early example of the Ornette Coleman quartet in full flight. Coleman's melody is haunting and his counterpoint with Don Cherry unforgettable. Haden's throbbing bass also contributes to the overall effect. Listening to this piece in 1959 must have been an unnerving experience, but after a half century of changing jazz fads and fashions it still will stir you up.

December 09, 2007 · 1 comment


James Blood Ulmer: Lonely Woman

Before James Blood Ulmer turned himself over to the blues (which admittedly was a strong part of his playing all along), he was the man of guitar harmolodics. On this track from Ulmer's Ornette tribute album, Ulmer takes that winding Coleman melody and discovers all manner of unexpected side turns. This is especially true toward the end of the piece when Ulmer's increasingly frenetic guitar excursions become commingled with Jones' basslines. Surely not surprising for a tune driven by harmolodic theory, but still a fine example of what this unconventional approach has to offer.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments


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