Review: Don Malfon, Juan Castañon, Itzam Cano & Chacal del Tamborazo – For Ornette (self-released, Jul 20)

Even as someone who prefers Ornette Coleman’s more structured 70’s work (Science FictionDancing in Your HeadBody Meta), it is utterly impossible not to acknowledge his invaluable contributions to the free jazz tradition, which he essentially both created and named with his revolutionary group improvisations in the late 50’s and the prophetic 1961 LP Free Jazz. Though the genre has undoubtedly come quite a long way since then—Coleman’s approach seems rather tame even in comparison to albums released less than a decade later—every musician playing adventurous, formless jazz music is well aware of his name, legacy, and power. On For Ornette, the quartet of Don Malfon (alto sax), Juan Castañon (guitar), Itzam Cano (upright bass), and Chacal del Tamborazo (drum set) imbue their deep reverence for the late visionary with both a titular and conceptual significance, channeling his influence through performances of his compositions as well as original conjurations. The band displays a seamlessly dichotomous interest in abstract dissonance and harmonic interplay, fluidly trading moments of full-throttle chaos for driving solo exchange sections and lightning-fast call and response. Castañon’s use of a clean tone with occasional wah pedal wobble is the perfect choice for a collective style both abrasive and whimsical; his off-kilter backing shells and serpentine scalar runs are only made more agile by their clarity. The album ends with a stunning re-imagining of “The Sphinx” from Something Else!!!!, a fitting dual-dose of melody and mayhem.