Taking ownership of a series of obscure Ornette Coleman songs, drummer Todd Bishop shines them through a facet of his own view of the music, while leaving the beating heart of the originals intact, not a scratch upon them.
Most strikingly, the album is an easy listen. Not in the sense that it?s straight-forward, but instead, Bishop doesn?t needlessly complicate matters. Due to his inventiveness, Coleman?s music already comes with its dangers and pitfalls, wrapped with a bow on top. Bishop doesn?t try to out-free Coleman, instead, just takes the music as it is, and then plays it his way. That?s a big reason why this album works. It?s an impressive music statement to sound both personal and referential, to create music that feels In The Now and simultaneously nostalgic.
Apparently the Old English translation of Ornette?s name is ?Little Bird,? the source of that part of the title. The ?Little Played? portion relates to the relative obscurity of the tracks comprising this album (aside from ?Lonely Woman,? a popular Coleman composition which Bishop has been performing for years and wanted to include ?concept be damned.?). Most of the songs were originally released on Coleman albums with dates 1969 and later, and many are still not sold digitally. To hear the originals, one would either have to get lucky finding something on youtube or, as I did, stare interminably at personal CD shelves while grumbling about not having kept them organized while frying the pupils looking for Ornette?s name on jewel case spines.
Even as Bishop performs the music in his own voice, there?s still no confusing this music as originating from anyone but Coleman. Album opener ?Mothers Of the Veil? has the classic whippoorwill thrusts of woodwinds quickly rising and descending. ?Feet Music? has that classic funky strut of 60s-era hard bop, and ?Comme il Faut? remains as patternless as snow drifts in a shifting breeze.
But there are plenty of divergences as well. The album closer ?Strange As It Seems,? is a brooding skewed ballad, contrasting with the cracked mirror refraction from blues gospel fusion of Coleman?s original. And on ?Check Up,? Bishop plays the tune closer to the vest, a sunny jaunt through the park, and in contrast to Coleman?s original which was a ball of yarn perpetually threatening to become unwound and tangled.
Amazingly, Bishop has negated the requirement of actually needing to like Coleman?s music to enjoy Little Played Little Bird, without extinguishing the heart of the source music, and thus, making this an album accessible to Coleman enthusiasts, too.