Ornette Coleman — Free Jazz

 

Although it’s been a while, I have listened to a lot of Ornette Coleman over the years.  That said, I’ve never completely made friends with this record.  I have enjoyed his smaller groups more, and although they are just a starting point for the group improvisation, I like a lot of his tunes.  Regardless, this is an important work that’s been good to revisit.

Free Jazz, recorded December 1960 by Tom Dowd for Atlantic, features a double quartet  (split into separate channels when in stereo): Ornette, Don Cherry, Scott LaFaro, and Billy Higgins on one side; Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell on the other.  It’s a sprawling continuous improvisation that fills both sides of an LP with only a few short themes used throughout.  It was the first record of it’s kind–there are individual soloists, but it’s often a true large group improvisation.

This is a white label promo copy in mono–I believe this is better is stereo with each quartet on a side, the mono version is a bit dense.  The vinyl shows wear and has some noise, but is still enjoyable.  The gatefold cover is very cool–it features part of Jackson Pollack’s White Light visible through a cutout in front.  The full painting is inside the gatefold.

(Details: Atlantic 1364 mono/WLP/”white fan” logo)

Ornette Coleman — Free Jazz (excerpt)

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4 Responses to Ornette Coleman — Free Jazz

  1. dottorjazz says:

    hard listening when it came out, 52 years ago.
    a great revolution after 20 years of bop, be and hard.
    that was really something’ different, uneasy, tiring in whole listening, an uppercut right between your eyes. it may not be nice but it’s a milestone in Jazz, it changed the whole course. Coltrane replied 4 years later with Ascension.
    in CD versions, Free Jazz is wonderfully one long take, without interruptions, while Ascension is badly divided into two pieces.
    anyone approaching these two works should dedicate all attention to the music, no paper, no pc.
    try to understand why Ornette, whose best works are just preceding this one, came to Free Jazz.
    then you could’t like it, as music, but the Change was made. Jazz had begun a new road, the last original road. From then on, Afro-American music won’t succeed in finding another way to express.

    • vinyltim says:

      It’s important music that I hadn’t heard in years–it was great to revisit on fresh ears. Hugely influential, like you said, just look at Coltrane’s work in the years that followed. I still enjoy the quartet more, but Free Jazz was certainly a bold statement.

  2. Yeah I got the mono too – and wish I had a stereo. Two quartets squashed into mono just doesn’t sound right, whilst each quartet having its own space does. You live and learn. Cheers.

    • vinyltim says:

      Yeah–I’ve got the stereo version on Cd and it’s much better. Still like having a WLP copy though…

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