Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar [Sound Grammar, 2006]
Looking back, we understand that Coleman was always an inspired melodist. We may even conclude that it was his melodies that made his free, harmolodic and avant-funk concepts irresistible. But at 76, he turns the page with this two-bass, two-Coleman quartet. Tony Falanga bows most ballad themes and is hornlike or maybe just cellolike throughout. Ornette's alto (though not his trumpet or violin) could also be described as cellolike, and his new compositions suit the mellow mood even when the arrangement gives Denardo Coleman room to bash and rumble. Exemplary is one of just two remakes: 1959's "Turnaround," which was a lowdown gutbucket blues on Tomorrow Is the Question but is a whimsical chamber-music blues here. Both times Ornette quotes Cole Porter's "Do I Love You"; here he also quotes Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer." Conceptually as major as Change of the Century (1959) or Of Human Feelings (1979) and almost as consummately executed. A