While there have been a few Ornette Coleman tributes, relatively few compositions by the groundbreaking free jazz saxophonist have entered the jazz canon. Drummer Todd Bishop believed that Coleman's work was deserving of attention and chose nine songs for his quintet, only one of which, "Lonely Woman," has been widely recorded. Bishop's light touch on the drums works very well throughout the session. The band includes Richard Cole (bass clarinet, baritone, tenor, and soprano saxophones), Tim Willcox (tenor and soprano saxophones), pianist Weber Iago, and bassist Bill Athens. The omission of alto sax may have been deliberate, since that has long been Coleman's primary instrument, while many of the composer's bands have excluded piano, so Bishop's approach provides a different perspective. The mysterious "Mothers of the Year" is a tantalizing opener with rich unison lines for tenor and soprano (though the liner notes give no track-by-track information as to who plays each instrument), with the soprano taking the freer line. Cole's robust baritone is prominent in the brisk workout of "Engant," while the funky "Feet Music" has Iago switching to Wurlitzer, with Cole on baritone and Willcox on tenor playing bluesy solos. The midtempo "Check Up" is another tenor/soprano pairing, with a steady gait behind the angular solos of the saxophonists. Bishop and Athens open the brooding setting of "Lonely Woman," with Cole's haunting bass clarinet and Willcox's mournful tenor blending beautifully as Iago darts in and out. Little Played Little Bird is a well-conceived Ornette Coleman songbook that consistently delivers with superb solos and arrangements, while it may also provoke more mainstream jazz fans to check the original recordings if they haven't already done so.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden