Such is the beauty of the music performed by Old And New Dreams that the only way to sum up the album is that is quite simply essential listening.

ECM  1154 /450 5344

Don Cherry (trumpet, piano); Dewey Redman (tenor saxophone, musette); Charlie Haden (double bass); Ed Blackwell (drums)

Recorded August 1979

Without a shadow of doubt bringing these four musicians together to celebrate the music of Ornette Coleman was an inspired idea. Afterall, had they themselves not helped to shape Coleman’s music and theories in applying his concept of harmolodics during their own time in the great man’s quartets?

However, when you bring musicians of this calibre together the result is nearly always greater than the sum of its parts, and that is verry much the case here with this extraordinary and exceptional music.

As is often the case, what originally began as celebration of Ornette’s music morphed into something altogether more encompassing.

By the time the sessions where over, the resulting album finds the quartet exploring just two compositions by Coleman, with a further four pieces from within the group that may have taken their inspiration from the altoist but drawing on much wider sources as well.

Of the two pieces by Coleman, the album opens with an exceptional ‘Lonely Women’. If a rather predictable choice, the quartet’s playing is anything but. From the opening strummed double bass of Charlie Haden and the mournful cry of the trumpet and tenor, the music is transformed and lifted by the drumming of Ed Blackwell.

The piece builds in intensity until it is almost unbearable before Dewey Redman kicks off his tenor solo. This offers remarkable lyricism and restraint as Blackwell’s drums keep up a continuous dialogue, cajoling and nudging Redman.

Steadfastly sticking to his melodic line and refusing to be steered elsewhere the tenorist passes the baton to Don Cherry whose lines are also phrased elegantly, and each note placed with care.

He shapes his phrases with squeezed and bent notes that give a very vocal and human cry to his improvisations, and this retains elements with the earliest forms of the music as well as the more avant garde that the trumpeter is renowned for.

‘Open Or Close’ is one of those headlong compositions that Coleman was fond of. Redman solos first, and despite the tempo sound unhurried and at ease.

In contrast, Cherry’s solo scampers through a solo that offers melodic phrases that bounce off each other and the rhythm section in an exhilarating solo before giving way to Haden’s solo that is itself full of drama.

Compositional duties are then divided among the quartet with one a piece from each. Don Cherry’s ‘Guinea’ opens with a majestic opening statement from the trumpeter before being joined by his colleagues, and Redman and Cherry weave delicious counterpoint to each other lines.

Cherry’s solo is tentatively set up before Redman steps in with a big warm solo that is full of imagination. These solos are brief and are interspersed with these contrapuntal lines form the horns that are profound and jaw dropping.

Redman picks up the musette for his own ‘Orbit of La-Ba’ and the high-pitched sound of the traditional double-reed instrument is heard in dialogues with firstly Charlie Haden and then Don Cherry over Blackwell’s rolling figures on the drums creates an intoxicating and heady sound.

Talking of the drummer, his contribution is central to the wonderful music heard here. Each time I have listened to the music I am struck by the sheer musicality of his playing. Like Cherry, Blackwell’s playing is all encompassing from the early jazz of New Orleans, African drumming and bebop all melded into a sound and vocabulary that was all his own.

Based on a Ghanese traditional tune, his composition ‘Togo’ is a tour de force with gentle unison lines from the horns the piece is essentially a feature for the drummer, but this is unlike any drum solo that you’ve heard before.

The album concludes with Charlie Haden’s ‘Song For The Whales’ and a feature for his arco bass. Haden would make this composition a staple of repertoire and would record the piece on several occasions in very different contexts.

Haden’s use of the bow and playing high pitched ponticello lines that give an ethereal quality to the music before the drums and horns enter and Haden furiously bowing in the bass’s lower register creating a dark and ominous close to the tune and the album.

Such is the beauty of the music performed by Old And New Dreams that the only way to sum up the album is that is quite simply essential listening.