BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: Ornette has never sounded better — or more necessary.
Has Ornette’s alto sax ever sounded purer and more lovely? From the first upward swoop into that innocent — sorry, no other way to put it — childlike vocal timbre on “Jordan,” the first tune of this, his first new album in 10 years, you have to feel grateful that this is one giant who’s survived, and you’re lucky to be here with him. It’s also one of his most accessible albums — only a smidgen of his “secondary” instruments (trumpet and violin), his alto melodies laid out on a web of two acoustic basses (one bowed, one plucked, by Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga) and the ever wayward clattering beat of son Denardo on drums. There are two oldies, “Song X,” from his 1986 collaboration with Pat Metheny, and “Turnaround,” a bopping blues from 1959 (with a quote of “Beautiful Dreamer”). But the real stunner here is “Once Only,” one of the most beautiful ballads he’s ever written (and this is the guy who wrote “Lonely Woman”). One bass bows the melody while the other plucks in counterpoint, then Denardo’s cymbals and mallets, and a repetition of the melody on alto as the pizzicato speeds up. It’s a long, delicate journey — softly bopping mid-range phrases, laughing upward runs, ecstatic cries, ending with a single, perfect cracked high note. While so many ape the tradition, Ornette, ever necessary, is still creating it.