After nearly 10 years of all-out harmelodic assault with his Prime Time Band, jazz legend Ornette Coleman revealed his reflective, melodic side again at the Warner Theatre last night. The great iconoclast displayed a graceful, even elegant fluidity on the alto sax and a seemingly bottomless well of short melodic phrases. The music always seemed to be falling apart and reinventing itself in a warmly personal, almost confessional tone.
The concert was ostensibly a collaborative affair between the 56-year-old Coleman and 31-year-old guitarist Pat Metheny. Although the gifted Metheny played as well as he ever has, no one could have challenged Coleman's dominance.
Metheny and Coleman opened the show with two fast, brittle numbers, with Denardo Coleman, the composer's son, muscling fast rolls on the electric drums. Then acoustic bassist Charlie Haden and trap drummer Jack DeJohnette joined for the jaunty romp of "Mob Job," which featured Coleman's patient variations over Metheny's skittering cries on the synthesized guitar.
For the encore, Coleman returned to his old harmolodics for "Endangered Species," a full-tilt charge of five simultaneous solos that was breathtaking in its momentum. The show's highlight was "The Calling," a rising and falling piece that built to grand harmonies between Haden's bowed bass, Metheny's synthesized drone and Coleman's humming sax.