Picks and Pans Review: Songx

updated 06/09/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/09/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman

Though Metheny, 31, has lead billing on Song X, 56-year-old Ornette Coleman clearly dominates their collaboration. That might be hot news for disciples of Coleman, who remains as controversial today as he was 25 years ago when his dissonant, sometimes anarchic style was revolutionary. But it's bound to leave many of Metheny's followers out in the cold. Eschewing the soothingly ethereal, atmospheric music he usually plays, Metheny takes his first walk on the wild side of improvisation on this self-produced LP. The adventure is sometimes confusing, yet always interesting. Coleman has always been radical in his approach to jazz, blatantly disregarding traditional music structures to play what he feels from moment to moment. This album is no exception. He wrote or co-wrote all of the material on Song X, and his sometimes frenetic horn playing often obscures Metheny's more subtle contributions. Endangered Species, a tangled web of sax and synthesized guitar lines, sounds like an aural impression of a flash fire in a hermetically sealed chicken coop: Listening requires nerves of steel, a wry sense of humor or both. Mob Job by comparison is positively conventional, with Coleman reeling off some familiar melodies underpinned by Metheny's bluesy guitar and Charles Haden's deft bass playing. And if you really go with the flow, you can almost waltz to Kathelin Gray. On this piece Coleman and Metheny gently harmonize above multilayered, uptempo percussion by Jack DeJohnette and Coleman's 30-year-old son, Denardo. This sound collage is tough to take at first, but adventurous listeners will get a kick out of it. (Geffen)

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