Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman

  • Song X [Geffen, 1986] A
  • Song X: Twentieth Anniversary [Nonesuch, 2005] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Song X [Geffen, 1986]
I've always regarded Metheny as a harmless, well-meaning talent whose interests are as far from mine as, I don't know, Nino Rota's. It was nice that he admired Ornette, but his jazz was still way too tame. Well, never mind--this collaboration is the best pure jazz album Coleman's made since I started keeping track in the early '70s. No rock moves, and no funk, harmolodic or otherwise--it's all sweet lyricism, sonic comedy, and headlong invention. Metheny obviously doesn't deserve top billing, but he holds his own, especially on guitar synth, where his duet responses, ensemble parts, and choo-choo noises all fit in. And while rhythm stalwarts Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette make everything swinging, it's Metheny's taming effect that keeps the music in trim. A

Song X: Twentieth Anniversary [Nonesuch, 2005]
Right, the same damn jazz album--same damn fine jazz album--he/they released in 1986. Only the 18 minutes of bonus tracks, which include Ornette blowing changes and playing bebop, would make a damn fine EP. Instead, they sit there at the very beginning, saying, "We are the loam from which Song X will arise forthwith." A

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