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Released in 1985, Song X was Pat Metheny's first recording for the Geffen label. After a prosperous career with ECM, Metheny realized a lifelong dream by collaborating with Ornette Coleman. (He had previously collaborated with both bassist Charlie Haden (an Ornette alumnus), and drummer Jack DeJohnette. A second drummer, Denardo Coleman, was added for this session and adds immeasurably to the rhythmic complexity of the music here.) Coleman had been a major influence on Metheny's ideas about melody and harmony, as well as space. Song X was the first of a number of deviations from the guitarist and composer's trademark sound and direction. The pairing of the two was jagged and startling when it was first issued. The recording sent his traditional fans reeling and wondering if he'd gone off his rocker. The resulting tour sent them streaming out of auditoriums in droves. As Metheny explains in his liner notes, the CD medium at the time was limited to about 48 minutes, and the choices for the final package were made according to those limitations. Twenty years later, CDs held 80 minutes of music, and Metheny not only remastered and remixed the entire disc, he also tacked on six tracks from the original sessions to the beginning of the disc, making the Twentieth Anniversary Edition an almost entirely different offering that becomes revelatory in its new context. The additional cuts were all written by Coleman. His "Police People" opens the set. Haden's bass figure introduces a lovely, celebratory, dual front-line melody which is at once both knotty and euphoric. Metheny takes the first solo, which follows his own lyrical path and makes his sound edgier and his phrasing more complex with more notes in the frame. Coleman immediately follows him, and turns the dialogue toward R&B. Metheny takes the cue and, in a breathtaking gesture, strolls it out on the ledge for him. "The Good Life" takes post-bop and Caribbean-kissed melody and winds them together as Coleman and Metheny engage in gorgeous counterpoint. Denardo's playing angles DeJohnette's and pushes the soloists. "Word from Bird" adeptly showcases the band strutting through tough mutant bop changes based in the blues and offers up another helping of the kind of depth and dimension this band was capable of reaching; the choices on Metheny's original release of Song X didn't reflect his views at all. "Compute" is more complex, denser, and yet utterly full of gorgeous interplay and driven engagement. "The Veil" is almost like a film noir serial piece, all nocturnal and smoky until it gets to the soloing, where contrapuntal exchange becomes the M.O. And then, the original record known as Song X begins — its sound altered somewhat dramatically, its intensity more focused and fervent, and its edges exposed. After the new prelude, the session comes into full view, the attack and agenda become clearer, more focused, more driven to explore not only boundaries but also the insides of harmonic interplay and rhythmic invention. Due to Haden's canny sense of time, both drummers are free to explore and explode in the compositional frame; they go head to head, and dovetail one another in response to the front-line soloing. In sum, this is an entirely new album, one that not only warrants its reissue but also demands an entirely new assessment as to the striking success of this collaboration, and of its own place in the jazz canon.
Failure to appreciate.
The above reviewers, unfortunately, seem to have little appreciation of the radical potentials of jazz freed from the "band leader" model, so it makes sense this could listen as a kind of anarchic burst of high-school instrument-tuning gone wrong... On the other hand, if you aren't intimidated by the "anarchism" of experimental music-- John Zorn's Naked City, for instance-- Song X presents itself as an opportunity for a nomadic dérive through experimental musical territories. Will take you to some odd spaces.
best jazz ever
i just wanted to write something because i am enjoying this album so much. i think that some people would listen to it differently so that it seemed like chaos. but it is really the opposite and there is unity if you listen from deep inside. ornette is a master. anything he plays is everything. the drums are very good. for those who are open to it, this music is very helpful. We are fortunate to know this letter from some place we might not otherwise even know about.
Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful.
It reminds me of that line from Hendrix. Pat really has quite a varied catalog. This album, the first time I listened to it seemed like chaos, especially Endangered Species. I still can't really understand Endangered Species, but the rest of the almbum is fabulous. Different, but fabulous. And Ornette really can play beautifully, like on Kathelin Grey. If you are a true fan of the varied body of Metheny works, you have to have this album. If you are a casual listener and prefer the softer, more melodic stuff, don't bother. This is a sonic explosion best listened to without speaking; it is not easy listening music.
Born: March 9, 1930 in Fort Worth, TX
Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s
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