My only venture into the free jazz area is an Atlantic recording entitled "Free Jazz - a Collective Improvisation by the Ornette Coleman Double Quartet. I'm curious how this album might be rated by free jazz enthusiasts. On a scale of ten with ten being the best, how would you knowlegeable folks rate it?
Free Jazz is one of my favorite records of all time. You have to completely free yourself from the oppressive concepts of melody and harmony to "get it," but they're just outmoded concepts used by the major record labels to suppress genius anyway! LOL.
Seriously, I do love the record, but it isn't easy to like. You have to be able to listen to two (or maybe) eight) simulatneous narratives unfolding all at once. Fortunately, Coleman had seven brilliant collaborators and they pulled it off. When lesser talents attempt it, the result is just noise.
I basically concur with what Wes said. Ornette's "Free Jazz" is a classic recording in the avant-garde jazz world but it's a rather "tough" record to take.
I don't know how I would number "Free Jazz" on a scale of 1 to 10 but another way to put it into some sort of perspective is this: Ornette Coleman is considered to be one of the key figures in the world of free jazz and "Free Jazz" is his most adventurous recording. I guess that would make it one heck of a pretty wild ride.
In other words, it won't be my first choice as the record to use for someone's first exposure to avant-garde jazz.
I did find it a bit tough to take. I am involved with some of those concepts like melody, harmony, tempo, chord progression etc. but rather than write off the whole genre on the basis of one sample (albeit a long sample), I thought I'd seek some advice. What do you recommend for beginners?
The original LP of "Free Jazz" had a Jackson Pollock painting ("White Light") on the inside of the gatefold cover a portion of which was visible through a rectangular cutout on the front cover. I always felt that this was a hint into what Ornette was looking for: an abstract impressionist music that paralled similar concepts in painting. Just as Jackson Pollock was trying new things with our idea of what a painting could communicate by dropping a clear concept of subject/background or "realistic" presentation, Ornette was doing similar things with melodic line, rhythm etc. But that's intellectualizing the issue. It's not so much do you "get" it as much as do you enjoy it. I like this stuff. On the other hand and in another genre I think I "get" serialism but I still don't like it. I'd give "Free Jazz" a few more spins to see if it clicks with you.
Jazzfan's avatar is Dave Holland's Conference of teh Birds, which is pretty hardcore free jazz, but not at all like Free Jazz -- if you take my meaning.
It's a record I could listen to first thing in the morning, which isn't true of Ornette's magnum opus. Ornette's first album, The Shape of Jazz to Come doesn't throw you into the deep end too abruptly, so it's a good starting place.
Straddling the line between "free" and "modern" is my beloved Eric Dolphy, who recorded some uncompromising music, as well as some of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard. "Feathers," from Out There, features Dolphy on soprano sax and Ron Carter on pixxacato cello and the alternation between Dolphy's soprano shrieks and rapid runs and George Duvier's solemn bowed bass always gives me goosebumps. This record is approachhing 50 years old it it still sounds shockingly new.
Pharoah Sanders is a pretty good bet. Tauhid was recorded while Sanders was a sideman in Coltrane's group and features great guitar from Sonny Sharrock, who flat out rocked Miles' Jack Johnson. (Don't buy the early '90s US CD, the late '90s Japanese disc sounds a lot better.) Sanders would be a lot better known, by the way, if he didn't refuse to play in places where alcohol is served.
Yes, that is the album cover. Let's face it, Pollock aint Monet or Chagall. He aint even Hans Hoffman. I was tempted to write off free jazz just as I wrote off Pollack, but I figured to be fair to myself, I needed to try more than one example. After all, I gave Pollock more than one shot.
Thanks for the suggestions, Wes. I'll see what I can find.
If you're feeling a little adventurous, you might try Spiritual Unity by the Albert Ayler Trio, or Machine Gun by the Peter Br
Check out the fairly new 25th Anniversary Edition of Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman's SONG X, which may be a good place to start. This was one my first attempts at "getting" into free jazz when it first came out (I was in High School then). The sound on the reissue is better, certainly and the music (including a whole album's worth of unreleased material) is still amazing.
Ah yes, "Song X", has it been 25 years already? Well it hasn't because it the release is a 20th anniversary edition, but hey, we all make mistakes.
I was lucky enough to see Metheny and Coleman in concert at Town Hall in NYC back in 1986. My friends and I had the worst seats in the house, last row in the balcony but we didn't have to stay there for long. Once Ornette and company launched into that wonderfully thick harmolodic soup, the Pat Metheny fans ran out of there so fast they left a damn vapor trail. By midconcert my friends and I had front row seats and enjoyed a great show. But of course, you could not hear Charlie Haden's bass and you had to listen to Denardo's drumming but DeJohnette more than made up for that with his amazing stick work.
I would also recommend Ornette's "Virgin Beauty", if only to hear Jerry Garcia sound completely lost. Not a single clue as to what's going on around him. However due to Jerry's presence on that recording the CD will never go out of print and will always be available used for a good price from some disappointed deadhead. Bless you Jerry.