Colors: Live from Leipzig

Ornette Coleman / Joachim Kühn

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Colors: Live from Leipzig Review

by Richard S. Ginell

Ornette Coleman is certainly full of surprises in his 60s, recording a duo album with -- believe it or not -- a pianist. For this project, he chose the German pianist Joachim Kühn, who gratefully claims that it was Ornette's example that originally led him down the road to free jazz, and they recorded eight Coleman compositions live in the opera house of Kühn's hometown, Leipzig. Yet their collaboration is not really a radical departure from Ornette's sound worlds in his acoustic groups or in the electric Prime Time. The two seem to exist on parallel planes, not interacting or reacting rhythmically or harmonically, but carving out their occasionally entwined melodic lines separately. Nor does Ornette change his own alto sax manner; at times, he performs in the same rhetorical fashion as he does with Prime Time, while venturing on the outside far more often and scraping away on the violin or burbling on his trumpet when the odd impulse strikes. The music ranges from the relatively funky "Faxing" -- no doubt a spinoff from Tone Dialing -- to the atonal complexity of "Three Ways to One," and the technically formidable Kühn gets an ovation for his extremely intricate solo passage in the latter. Here is an example of the artist having it both ways, reintroducing an instrument that he became famous for banishing, yet without compromising the artistic conception that led to its banishment in the first place. Thus, Colors is a fascinating addition to the Ornette Coleman catalogue.

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