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DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE REVIEW JULY 2012

Happy House Plays Ornette 
Unseen Rain
* * *1/2

Ornette Coleman’s influence over jazz is so powerful and omnipresent, it can seem atmospheric at times, detectable in trace elements or in whole cloth. The latter angle is at work on this lively tribute to Coleman’s early music, by a band of bold players named after a famous Coleman tune.

Taking the early Coleman chordless quartet in a semi-fresh direction, the limber alto (and soprano) turns of Chris Kelsey and the rumbling, rambling pulse of Dean Sharp’s drumming accesses memories of Coleman and original drummer Billy Higgins. But Don Cherry’s trumpet voice has been replaced by Pat Hall’s impressive trombone playing, and even more divergent from the historical source is Joe Gallant’s lanky and sometimes chordsnatching electric bass role.

From the cheerful title track and then the popular “Ramblin’,” it is evident that this foursome is channeling a Coleman-centric spirit, at once free and vibrant. A slinky, slow “Legend Of Bebop” is in sharp contrast with the brisk topsy-turvy energy of “Fifth Of Beethoven.” Throughout, the foursome lays sympathetically into the shape and emotional vibe of the repertoire. The obliquely mournful balladry of “Lorraine” gets its ruminative due, just as the charging “Broadway Blues,” “Dee Dee” and the liberating finale, “Enfant,” spin out an aptly dizzy path, sounding like a rebel kin to bebop.

—Josef Woodard