CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Joachim Kühn – Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII

Joachim Kühn – Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII
(ACT 9763-2. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Ornette Coleman came into his own on his second LP, his early advocate Martin Williams wrote, with “the chordally anchoring piano… eliminated, never to return.” Well, never is a long time. As well as risking “chordal anchoring” by recruiting two guitarists to Prime Time in the 1970s, Coleman made great music with compatible pianists, most prominently Geri Allen, later in his career without sounding in the least hampered. He wasn’t a man you could tie down.

He also worked fruitfully with the questing, classically-schooled German Joachim Kühn, a duo captured in a celebrated concert recording from 1996. The pianist kept a collection of unrecorded Coleman compositions from that time, and now offers a selection here, performed solo.

The slightly odd title aside (when was Ornette not melodic?), it’s a beguiling offering. The pianist, about to turn 75, is in fine form, and his treatments of the 11 new Coleman pieces do bring out their tuneful qualities, as well as prompting elegant, modestly proportioned improvisations, some almost classical in quality, some delving into much freer playing. Some of the tunes bear Ornette’s aural signature clearly – the rest would not catch this ear as pointing his way, but still preserve interesting small, song-like, often lyrical, ideas. The set is rounded out with two versions of Lonely Woman, and a longer piece dedicated to Ornette by the pianist.

As a European-based piano player’s homage to Ornette, it won’t displace Aki Takase’s blinding 2007 romp through 30 or so more familiar Coleman tunes in my affections, though she had the advantage of Silke Eberhard as a horn partner. The results here, it feels, owe more to Kühn than Coleman, but are no less interesting for that. The German is a late career master at the top of his game and this set is a worthy addition to his discography.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. Twitter: @jonWturney

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