Ornette Coleman and Joachim Kuhn: Colors

This stage of Ornette Coleman’s fascinating and historic sojourn evidences a new openness to the explorative possibilities afforded him by the piano. Evidence is offered by the inclusion of Geri Allen in his quartet a couple of seasons back, and the subsequent quartet recording they made in ’96, as well as the two duets on Allen’s latest record. Now comes the newest issue from Ornette and Denardo’s Harmolodic imprimatur, a concert recording of Coleman’s 1996 Leipzig meeting with pianist Joachim Kuhn in the latter’s hometown.

Where Allen is somewhat more cerebral, decorative yet reflective, Kuhn is headstrong with European ardor and brimming with avenues for Coleman to travel down. No need for comparison as both approaches are quite effective foils for Coleman, whose sense of music never wavers. “Story Willing” offers Ornette’s keening alto, cascading and tumbling but ever mindful of Kuhn’s presence. Coleman’s always chatty, conversational style lends itself well to this form. Largely because his is such a significant alto sax voice, I do still have a hard time with his violin and trumpet, which he thankfully employs to only minor effect.