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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Aki Takase & Silke Eberhard - Ornette Coleman Anthology (Intakt, 2007) ****½

Silke Eberhard is a German alto saxophonist and clarinetist, and Aki Takase a Japanse pianist. Together they take on Ornette Coleman's early compositions, using the tunes in the best of jazz traditions, undoing most of the "free" element in the process, bringing the essence of the melody in a compact, reverent, almost classical form. What you get are 36 Coleman compositions each lasting on average 3 minutes. And the great thing is that it works! Eberhard's playing is nothing short of stellar, rich in tone, full of controlled emotion, accurate and free. Her way of carrying the tune and expanding on it, is really wonderful. Eberhard's rendition of "Lonely Woman" alone is fabulous, slow, precise, deep while Takase limits herself to some soft chordal support (on this track at least). The two musicians approach Coleman's music from various angles, exploring the melodies, the rhythms and the overall feeling with all the wealth of their rich musical baggage. Modern classical music is at times as much present as honky-tonk jazz from the bars of New Orleans, and everything in between. Listen how Takase plays "The Sphinx", referencing almost the entire music history in one tune, from Mozart to wild atonal freedom! Their joy in playing Coleman's tunes is overly present in every note they play, and that's possibly the greatest part of the album. The fun is almost tangible, and the light playfulness of Ornette's compositions has rarely been brought in this way, with the exception of Don Cherry. Pieces such as "Round Trip", are caught in their very essence, depite the fact that the track is only a little longer than one minute. Two great masters of their instrument demonstrate what music is all about. Apart from their great performance here, they demonstrate again that Ornette Coleman is really one of the great composers of the last century ... in any genre. If you're interested in Coleman, this record is not to be missed.