Free Jazz - Ornette Coleman

Those must be included in the reviewer’s guide under " must-use bombast".

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Gag when I see “return to form”, usually not the case. Not that that’s always a bad thing. This thread got me listening to both Free Jazz and Bitches Brew, both of which I’d not heard previously. Enjoyed Bitches Brew; didn’t hate Free Jazz, I’ll have to listen to more of it – it does take effort!


That’s great.

Aren’t all reviews subjective? Aren’t all reviewers clouded by preference? Isn’t a term like ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful’ polluted by socio-economic, political and religious connotations?

I don’t disagree with you that phrases like ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘genre defining’ or ‘landmark’ ect are vapid but so too are almost all descriptors especially ones that might try to connect emotions. Ones persons ‘stirring’ could be my boring.

I’ve always believed that art that challenges us is good for us. How otherwise do we grow? If ya try it and you don’t like it, maybe you don’t have to try it again, but maybe there was a part of it you liked so you can seek out that part. Maybe on Free Jazz you liked the trumpet, and the next thing you’re diving into Don Cherrys discography.

Is Free Jazz important? I think it is. Is it sublime? Again I think so…. But I also think that for the most part the good stuff is on the fringes. It’s not an accident that Free Jazz has the Pollock painting on the cover…. The Avant-Garde vs the kitsch.


Here’s my take. I agree it takes a certain set of ears to like, and mine didn’t like it when I first heard OC’s stuff back in college. But I was studying jazz privately with a guy who LOVES free jazz, as well as the styles of jazz I already LOVED, so he helped me figure it out. He told me I needed to relax and be flexible, to not worry so much about which notes or rhythms or harmonies are chosen. He pointed out that jazz had changed significantly over time - from the early New Orleans stuff through Louis Armstrong into the swing era into be-bop, into “straight-ahead.” During that evolution, melodies, rhythms, harmonies, phrasing, and sound colors had progressively gotten freer. So Ornette Coleman was nothing more than a logical step in the evolution of jazz. So listen more to what’s SIMILAR to other jazz than what’s DIFFERENT. It has swing feel, tells a story, features amazing interaction between musicians, is emotional. Listen to how Coleman SPEAKS, what his playing SAYS, how Billy Higgins and Scott LaFaro help him tell the story. When I began looking at the music from that perspective, it started really making sense. Interestingly, that approach was something I never learned in my formal music classes in college, and I began to use it to better understand composers like Schoenberg and Webern and Zappa.


Listen to Trout Mask Replica first. It will suddenly sound accessible.

If one subscribes to the Wynton Marsalis view of jazz then “Free Jazz” is at best an outlier. But if you realize that sounds are forever changing and not always pleasing to the ears then Coleman and his crew are important liberators of the mind.

The need to musically evolve feeds my interest.

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I completely agree. Stasis is not good.

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