ROCK & JAZZ / Acquired taste or vintage performance?

THE COVER of the new Kate Bush album is awash with overripe fruit. Heady, bruised and oozing syrup - maybe that's how we expect the contents to be. As is Kate's custom, The Red Shoes (EMI, CD/LP/tape, out now) was a long time on the vine - nearly four years have passed since her last record, the breathily opulent The Sensual World - but comes off fresh and zesty, and leaves a sweet taste.

The Red Shoes takes a while to get into its stride. First there's the single, 'Rubber Band Girl', which sounds less inconsequential every time you hear it, but still causes toes to tap rather than jaws to drop. The next song is spoilt by some horrible guitar playing from Eric Clapton, and by the end of the annoying worldbeat workout 'Eat the Music' ('Split the banana, crush the sultana'? I don't think so) disappointment looms. The listener's guard now being down, Kate wades in with her best shot. 'Moments of Pleasure' is just extraordinary; a frighteningly intimate celebration of past love and friendship, exquisitely sung over a sublime piano and string arrangement. This song could bring a tear to the sternest eye.

Not all of the rest of The Red Shoes is up to this standard - how could it be? - but the mood lasts, and there are other great moments. 'Top of the City' is thrilling, even when you know Nigel Kennedy is playing the violin. For a supposed recluse, Kate Bush certainly has a lot of famous friends. Who else would call upon the services of Prince, Lenny Henry and Trio Bulgarka, all on the same song? (The result of this unlikely union, 'Why Should I Love You?', starts beautifully but loses its way in the middle as everyone gets under the feet of the others.) The Welling siren is a unique talent, who at her best stands out in any company. Her concluding 'You're the One' - 'Mmm, yes, he is very good-looking, the only trouble is he's not you' - is the bittersweet love song of the year, perhaps of the decade.

Don't expect Spiritualized to warm your cockles. For all its aspirations to soulfulness, their music is a chilly shimmer. Sometimes it's pretty too, though. I'm not sure what this band leaves out of their sound to make it so distinctive, but it might be the minor chords. At the Astoria, they pulse and throb like a Velvet Underground shorn of dissonance and garage clank. Jason Pierce, their pasty-faced leader, might be wreathed in a mist of artful torpor, but he knows a good tune when he hears one.

Spiritualized's current (in both senses) EP, 'Electric Mainline' (Dedicated, out now), is a considerable step forward from Lazer Guided Melodies, their widely overrated album of last year. As played tonight though, the songs miss their shiny new horn arrangements. 'Lay Back in the Sun' could still be Suicide at their jolliest, but if it feels like you've got a choice as to whether to find a band mesmeric or boring, something must be going wrong somewhere.

Ever the innovator, Ornette Coleman seems to be pioneering the three-man quartet when he takes to the stage at the Royal Festival Hall. He ambles on in a rumpled purple suit, his son Denardo squares up to the drum kit and bass-player Charnett Moffett, son of Ornette's old drummer Charles, gives his thick strings a lusty tweak. They are well into their first number - Ornette's sax meandering in that uniquely focused way, rhythm kids calculatedly frenetic - before the fourth man, trumpeter Don Cherry, puts in an appearance.

Cherry (stepdad to Neneh) is a superbly disruptive presence, the Paul Merton of the group. Impeccably dressed in furry Kangol beret, kamikaze hair extensions and shiny pin- striped suit, he only rarely puts his trumpet to his lips; preferring to fix the audience with a series of speculative glares, take his shoes off, drop his music, and even wander off stage. When he does play, he supplies funny little echoes of whatever Ornette is playing, occasionally adding a quiet fanfare of his own. Coleman is not in the least put off by all this; he and Don go way back after all, to the great Atlantic recordings with which they launched free jazz in the late Fifties.

Coleman's return to an acoustic quartet might suggest he has tired of Prime Time, the guitar-dominated electric band with whom he has done most of his work in recent years, but there are elements of continuity. The younger men on stage are not afraid to rock things up. Moffat's bass-playing is vigorous to the point of being daredevil - he clambers all over the stately instrument, sawing at it with a bow and at one point employing his battery of effects boxes to create a mighty rumble of distortion - and Denardo's drumming would not be out of place in a hardcore punk band. Ornette's features are settled

as he blows, so like a panda's sometimes that it would be no surprise to see him chew on a bamboo shoot, but his playing is still restless, still concentrated. There is work yet to be done on that harmolodic theory of his; variously translated as 'All for one, one for all' and 'If

it feels good, do it'.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


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