Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959)

Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959)
Artist: Ornette Coleman
Album: The Shape Of Jazz To Come
Genre: Free Jazz
Year Of Release: 1959
Quality: APE (image+.cue)

Lonely Woman
Focus on Sanity


“ORNETTE COLEMAN was working as an elevator operator in Los Angeles, and had told a few peers that he had wanted to quit playing music altogether shortly before NESHUI ERTEGUN of ATLANTIC’s jazz records told him to please reconsider.

It’s hard to imagine it now, but by the late fifties, COLEMAN had been active in the jazz scene for some ten years, and had become somewhat of a polarizing figure. His unique sound was often met with hostility and even THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME had its fair share of detractors (among them MILES DAVIS). Indeed, the title of the album itself seemed to ‘forgive its arrogance’ – it was ordered by ATLANTIC.

THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME was a fulfillment of COLEMAN’s musical experimentations up to that point. But by all means, it would almost be unfair to already call it ‘free jazz’ as there would be time for the artist to go down darker territories. Some choices are, nevertheless very daring. The lack of a chordal instrument, for instance, instantly springs to mind. The absence of a piano or a guitar leaves the saxophone’s wailing even more drastic and reveals it in glorious vulnerability.

This also allows the fantastic and emotive interplay by COLEMAN on saxophone and DON CHERRY on trumpet even more at the centre stage, unafraid to expose an ugly side of harmony, that reeks of asphalt, alcohol and cigarettes, feels like sadness and a dangerous mixture of paranoia and euphoria. In LONELY WOMAN this dangerous mix seems to open up drunkenly. All the while, in the significant alienated distance, the slow basslines by CHARLIE HADEN and the wild yet collected drummer BILLY HIGGINS keep a beat but still surrender to the dominating subconciousness of the record’s leading instruments that are often left room to breathe into uncharted territories.

This melodic unpredictability is still very melodious. The structure of the songs still mostly seem to follow the rules of bebop, beginning with a signature setting the time and then allowing plenty of rooms for soloing. There are switches in mood. CHRONOLOGY, contrasts with a track like LONELY WOMAN with its very cheerful nature. In CONGENIALITY, the constant switches between upbeat and nostalgia are harrowing and openly play upon the listener’s conventional perceptions.

THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME was really just COLEMAN scratching the surface, or perhaps him cleansing himself of the melodies buzzing about in his head while voicing his already controversial conception. Nevertheless, it is rather enjoyable and not as challenging to the casual listener as future recordings of his, daringly blending the line between the traditional and the modernist to perfection. For this reason, it is also the perfect “FREE JAZZ” beginner’s album.”

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