A lot of people are unnecessarily afraid of Ornette Coleman because the words "free jazz" and "avante-garde" have been applied to his music. But his music is quite approachable. This album is a great place to start for people who are new to Ornette. This album caused a stir in 1959 when it was released, with jazz critics exploding in wrath. The reason for all this furor? Ornette chose not to use a chordal instrument on this music. No piano, no guitar. He and Don Cherry harmonize to imply chords, and occasionally Charlie Haden (bassist supreme!) supplies the occasional three or four note chordal riff, but mostly the music consists of melodies (and very melodic solos) played over an implied structure. Ornette's tone is sharp and lemony on the sax, while Don Cherry's cornet tone is sweeter and more rounded. They state themes and then toss melodies back and forth, while Haden and drummer Billy Higgins interject and support. The music on this album...
I highly recommend shelling out a few more bucks for this remastered version (Atlantic Masters, 2005)--the sound is greatly improved (higher resolution, more "information") compared to the original CD version. Sounds more like you're listening to four great musicians instead of a recording of 'em. This is a classic and beautiful album that was revolutionary at its time, and is still very appealing today. Incidentally, I noticed it's one of only a handful of Jazz albums that appears on the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums of all time list.
This is an excellent product, and should be distinguished from the original CD version.
Ornette Coleman is a name frequently associated with the very challenging world of avante-garde jazz. But The Shape Of Jazz To Come, while certainly revolutionary and groundbreaking, is not difficult music at all to listen to. Later records such as 1960's Free Jazz would fit that bill, but this is a splendidly accessible post-bop jazz album. Even people who hate Coleman's later work and the whole concept of free jazz (I'm sort of mixed on the idea myself) will probably love this.
The main breakthrough of this album is the idea of implied chords. Rather than placing a conventional chord under each note, Coleman chooses instead to only imply the existence of the chord and in so doing leaves open many different possible melodies to improvise with. While this could seemingly invite chaotic dissonance within the framework of a quartet, the band plays with fluidity throughout. Every track is full of easy melodies, which is not something you could say for a lot of Coleman's other...
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