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Ornette Coleman|The Shape Of Jazz To Come

The Shape Of Jazz To Come

Ornette Coleman

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This album belongs to a time when jazz record executives slapped broad boasts and proclamations onto their products. These usually celebrated the prowess of the artist (Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus) or the potency of the sounds (the Count Basie Orchestra's Atomic Basie). The Shape of Jazz To Come takes that hype up a notch, promoting alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman as no less than the future of the art.

As prophecy goes, the title is spot on. This record introduced Coleman's daring approach to harmony (which he called "harmelodics"), and showed how it stretched common wisdom about consonance and dissonance, structure and openness, hard swing and tempoless contemplation. Coleman and his three agile musicians—trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins; note the absence of a harmony instrument like piano or guitar—engage in a series of squabbling conversations loosely shaped (and occasionally punctuated) by recurring melodic fragments. The ad-libbed motifs dart around corners rapidly; sometimes they bloom and then disappear immediately, sometimes they hang around and mutate as they're volleyed between instrumentalists.

The most famous of these is "Lonely Woman," a sullen Coleman original that's easily his most ubiquitous tune. Following a deliberative bass opening from Haden, Coleman renders it as a study in hanging questions and unresolved mysteries. Other tunes, including "Focus On Sanity" (Coleman's choice for the album title), summon the frenetic energy and taunting fury that soon came to be associated with free jazz. Indeed, it contains maps to the terrain of the future: Historians generally mark this work, which was enshrined in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2012, as the foundation of the entire jazz avant garde movement. And though the music quickly sprouted more strident modes of expression, this album's forward-hurtling spirit still delivers on the claim of the title. © Tom Moon/Qobuz

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The Shape Of Jazz To Come

Ornette Coleman

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1
Lonely Woman
00:05:00

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Composer, Alto Saxophone, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

2
Eventually
00:04:23

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Composer, Alto Saxophone, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

3
Peace
00:09:05

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Composer, Alto Saxophone, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

4
Focus on Sanity
00:06:52

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Alto Saxophone, Writer, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

5
Congeniality
00:06:48

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Composer, Alto Saxophone, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

6
Chronology
00:06:04

Nesuhi Ertegun, Producer - Billy Higgins, Drums - Ornette Coleman, Composer, Alto Saxophone, MainArtist - Charlie Haden, Double Bass - Don Cherry, Cornet

© 1959 Atlantic Records ℗ 1959 Atlantic Records

Album review

This album belongs to a time when jazz record executives slapped broad boasts and proclamations onto their products. These usually celebrated the prowess of the artist (Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus) or the potency of the sounds (the Count Basie Orchestra's Atomic Basie). The Shape of Jazz To Come takes that hype up a notch, promoting alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman as no less than the future of the art.

As prophecy goes, the title is spot on. This record introduced Coleman's daring approach to harmony (which he called "harmelodics"), and showed how it stretched common wisdom about consonance and dissonance, structure and openness, hard swing and tempoless contemplation. Coleman and his three agile musicians—trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins; note the absence of a harmony instrument like piano or guitar—engage in a series of squabbling conversations loosely shaped (and occasionally punctuated) by recurring melodic fragments. The ad-libbed motifs dart around corners rapidly; sometimes they bloom and then disappear immediately, sometimes they hang around and mutate as they're volleyed between instrumentalists.

The most famous of these is "Lonely Woman," a sullen Coleman original that's easily his most ubiquitous tune. Following a deliberative bass opening from Haden, Coleman renders it as a study in hanging questions and unresolved mysteries. Other tunes, including "Focus On Sanity" (Coleman's choice for the album title), summon the frenetic energy and taunting fury that soon came to be associated with free jazz. Indeed, it contains maps to the terrain of the future: Historians generally mark this work, which was enshrined in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2012, as the foundation of the entire jazz avant garde movement. And though the music quickly sprouted more strident modes of expression, this album's forward-hurtling spirit still delivers on the claim of the title. © Tom Moon/Qobuz

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