Less than 20 seconds elapse before Ornette Coleman’s playful, piercing alto saxophone punctuates the music taking shape at the beginning of New Vocabulary’s self-titled album.
What’s most remarkable about these dozen tracks is they mark the Fort Worth native’s first studio recording in nearly two decades (2006’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sound Grammar was a live album). Given the lack of new material from Coleman, who turns 85 on March 9, it’s astonishing that these works were rather unceremoniously recorded in July 2009 and released with scarcely any fanfare on independent label System Dialing Records in early December. (I try to pay close attention to Coleman’s career, and it wasn’t until a Wall Street Journal article earlier this month I even knew about the record.)
But, perhaps it’s best to take whatever fresh creation Coleman’s willing to share, and simply be grateful. New Vocabulary finds the ever-restless Coleman collaborating with the vanguard of a younger generation, Jordan McLean and Amir Ziv, who share producing credit here, and perform on trumpet and drums, respectively. Adam Holzman contributes piano to a trio of tunes, but otherwise, it’s Coleman, McLean and Ziv, locked in a dynamic push-pull. The results, considering Coleman’s catalog, are surprisingly accessible, with a hint of his signature harmolodics woven into compositions full of space and feeling ( Value and Knowledge is a notable highlight ).
However the music materializes, simply knowing Ornette Coleman continues to push himself, long after most musicians would have stopped, is cause enough for celebration.
Befitting an act describing itself as “ brewed off the bricks in west Fort Worth,” Bomber Spur sounds very much like a band born out of the city where the West begins. ( According to the band’s bio, the name derives from a rail spur in west Fort Worth, which delivered bombs to the former Carswell Air Force Base.) The Americana quintet — guitarist Stephen Bunten, bassist Nathan Brown, drummer Larry Gerard, multi-instrumentalist Scott Lennox and vocalist Jessica Schemmel — has fashioned a rewarding debut, Spurs First. Bomber Spur also got an assist from local legend Johnny Reno, having cut these 10 original tracks in his home studio. The result is a freewheeling mix of rowdy anthems ( Brazos River Blues) and poignant ballads ( Miss Misty). It’s more fun than a Saturday night in the Stockyards. Bomber Spur plays Dallas’ Double Wide on Jan. 30.