Out There

Songs from the sound museum
Songs from the Night Before
David Sanborn
Elektra Records

The saxophone has a reputation for being one of the sexiest jazz instruments. This generalization has never held much sway with me; for romance, I'll take a Chet Baker trumpet solo or a Nina Simone vocal over a tenor sax any day. Still, David Sanborn works and works and works to convince us that the sax is the most versatile of musicmaking devices. He won't be satisfied until he has, one at a time, seduced us all--if not with a genuine swoon, then exhaustive resignation, like Michael Bolton has attempted. This is a frustrating CD, alternating between great promise and disappointing ordinariness. Every time that Sanborn spends one tune sailing on some funky chords and fast, inventive improvisation (as he does on "Relativity"), he follows it up with a sing-songy, Kenny G-influenced piece that must have been written specifically with Muzak in mind ("D.S.P.," "Listen Here"). Sanborn is a talented jazz musician; if he could resist the urge to hold claim to the title of "most popular jazzman" as well, his next album might be wholly satisfying instead of a baffling hybrid.

--Arnold Wayne Jones

Sound Museum--Hidden Man
Sound Museum--Three Women
Ornette Coleman
Harmolodic/Verve Records

Saxophonist Ornette Coleman's latest, simultaneous releases, Three Women and Hidden Man, prove that two takes of the same song can be as different in the hands of free jazz as the north and south pole. Each record has the same 13 songs; yet Coleman's "harmolodics"--composed improvisations--make each record's version as different as night and day. "Hidden Man" is yin to "Three Women's" yang. Coleman, 66, is legendary for scrambling blues and jazz harmony and serving them up hard in an avant-garde meal. With his first acoustic pianist in 40 years, his quartet is rounded out by the handy and lyrical Geri Allen, bassist Charnett Moffett (son of drummer Charles Moffett, who played with Coleman in the '60s), and Ornette's own son Denardo. Worlds apart, even from his own work, Coleman creates with each CD the standard by which the other is judged. Each exploration is intriguing for its momentary synergy--a rare, fleeting texture which quickly slips through the fingers. These discs--taken together or separately--command a hard listen, and your reaction to the music therein will vary according to your mood. At its (or your) worst, this can be tiresome; at best, arresting.

--Brendan Doherty


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