Joachim Kühn

Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII

A melody usually needs time and repetition to attach itself to our experience. Here, pianist Joachim Kühn invites us to consider the nuanced melodies of Ornette Coleman, who abandoned many like unwanted children the moment he played them.

Kühn, a pioneer of the original free-jazz generation (ironically in East Germany), performed 16 concerts with Coleman between 1995 and 2000, the reedist sketching 10 original pieces per show, playing them once and moving on. Kühn became his Boswell, archiving 170 of those pieces, 11 of which make their recorded debuts here.

Kühn softens Coleman’s inner nervousness with a plush but probing lyricism, muting what once seemed confrontational with an orderly, almost analytical sensitivity. The one familiar song, “Lonely Woman,” takes on new identities in each of two performances.

As for the 11 fresh pieces, they aren’t defiant musical gauntlets hurled at us, but welcoming attempts to warm us. “Lost Thoughts” is a standout, whose appeal is so immediate it begs for the proper words that would make it a fine, even popular song. Kühn has shaped the music in a quietly introspective manner without becoming brooding. There are no swinging, uptempo flights; no swirling storms of free turmoil and frenzy. The tone is pensive, continuous and consistent from start to finish. It rewards simultaneously as both midnight mood music and a thoughtful solo recital, as you wish.

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October 2021
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