Jamaaladeen Tacuma – For the Love of Ornette – Jazzwerkstatt JW090, 51:52 [Distr. by Naxos] ***1/2:
(Jamaaladeen Tacuma – bass guitar; Ornette Coleman – alto saxophone, wisdom (1-3, 5-7); Tony Kofi – tenor saxophone; Wolfgang Puschnig – flute, hojok; Yoichi Uzeki – piano; Justin Faulkner – acoustic drums; Wadud Ahmad – spoken word (track 1); David “Fingers” Haynes – finger drums (tracks 4, 8, 9))
For the Love of Ornette is an invocation and a salutation; a tribute and an homage; and a continuation of the theory and form of Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics, a philosophical expression which when related to the specifics of music, means “harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time and phrases all have equal position in the results that come from the placing and spacing of ideas.” There’s no one better to get to Coleman’s visceral as well as spiritual inclinations than bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who was hired, mentored and forever changed by Coleman.
The nine pieces are a spontaneous combustion centered around two suites with different movements based on Tacuma’s title track and Coleman’s “Tacuma Song.” Through 51 minutes Tacuma and his carefully chosen ensemble – with Coleman on most cuts – shift, push, careen and liberally convey notions of tension and release, communication and freedom. The album opens with poet Wadud Ahmad’s spoken word affirmation, “Journey,” which is part blessing and part statement of purpose. But the crux comes from Coleman, who interjects: “Fella? Fellas? Can you hear me? Forget the notes and get to the idea.”
From there, the record jolts awake with the title track. Coleman leads the charge, complemented by Justin Faulkner’s rolling drums, Tacuma’s darting electric bass, Tony Kofi’s sinuous tenor sax, Wolfgang Puschnig’s flute and Yoichi Uzeki’s piano, which is somewhat buried in the mix. It’s a heated beginning that is calamitous, cacophonous and a scorching collective improvisation.
That’s followed by “East Wind,” the first movement of the title track, which has an exotic coloring due to Faulkner’s Indian/Asian rhythmic foundation and Puschnig’s use of the Korean hojok (misspelled in the credits as hojak), a double reed wind instrument in the shawm or oboe family with a loud piercing sound. Puschnig also plays flute and provides a calming mood above the heady earthiness of the sax, drums and Tacuma’s free-funk bass. Coleman sits out on the title track’s second movement, “Drum & Space,” an intoxicated outing which starts with flute, bass and percussive assistance from David Haynes, who adds live drum machine layers performed in real time. Kofi’s stabbing tenor sax offers a contrast to Puschnig’s solicitous flute. A sense of unorthodox swing permeates the title track’s third chapter, the feverishly soulful “Fortworth Funky Stomp,” a reference to Coleman’s Texas upbringing. Tacuma’s free funk is in full run as he lays down a nimble body-shaking groove while the other bandmembers swoop, rush and wail.
Tacuma fans should recognize “Tacuma Song.” It was introduced as an unaccompanied bass solo on Tacuma’s 1983 debut, Show Stopper. Here, the tune is stretched and transformed. The first part yowls along with Kofi’s tenor sax and Coleman’s alto sax entwined in a mesh of riffs and lines. Uzeki presents Cecil Taylor-esque moments and Tacuma steps forward with a tousled solo with short bursts of funk, blues and rhythm and blues.
The rest of the record is taken up by the other “Tacuma Song” movements. “Celestial Conversations” commences with a meditative bass/alto sax contemplation and then the group eases into a tempting symmetry of piano, flute, tenor sax and drums which musters some momentum and intensity but never loses an introspection impression. This is the warmest and most peaceful piece. A danceable beat and a funky overtone are the epicenter of “Vibe on the OC,” which has a no-nonsense urban characteristic echoed on the progressive fusion closer “Celebration on Prince Street,” which brings to mind Tacuma’s 1980s work.
2. For the Love of Ornette
3. For the Love of Ornette: East Wind Movement 1
4. For the Love of Ornette: Drum & Space Movement 2
5. Tacuma Song
6. For the Love of Ornette: Fortworth Funky Stomp Movement 3
7. Tacuma Song: Celestial Conversations Movement 1
8. Tacuma Song: Vibe on the OC Movement 2
9. Tacuma Song: Celebration on Prince Street Movement 3
— Doug Simpson