Music categories are by definition vague and full of disparate artists. This is especially true with the use of avant-garde in the jazz world.
The so-called free jazz or avant-garde began to emerge in the mid ‘50s with work by Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra among others. What united these artists along with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and others was the desire to take the jazz aesthetic and move the music beyond the rules of be-bop and hard bop into free jazz.
Every one of these artists followed his or her own muse and found a unique path. They were unified more by purpose than by style. In the intervening decades, fresh, original artists have added their voices to this unique quest.
This master group’s outrageous and magical live performance at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues And Jazz Festival by this masterful group (Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Malachi Favors and Don Moye).
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
FANFARE FOR THE WARRIORS
The 1974 Chicago studio recording adds pianist Muhal Richard Abrams to the band for one of the finest albums in their long history. Both the playing and the compositions are exceptional.
Ayler’s last great album with brother Don, Alan Silva and Milford Graves. Additional alternate takes of “Love Cry”, “Zion Hill” and “Universal Indians” have been released.
RHYTHM X -L
This 1968 debut recording, produced by Clifford Jordan, put tenor saxophonist Charles Brackeen in a sublime setting with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. Though definitely influenced by Ornette Coleman, Brackeen is his own man and he blossoms in front of the explosive support of Haden and Blackwell.
This 1958 debut album by Ornette Coleman announced a major composer and original saxophonist with an expressive blues-based tone and a whole new approach to improvisation. Introduced here are future jazz music standards such as “When Will The Blues Leave”, “The Blessing” and “The Sprinx” and some forgotten gems like “Chippie”. The quintet includes Don Cherry, Walter Norris, Don Payne and Billy Higgins who all play more conventionally than Ornette. Cherry and Higgins would soon be instrumental in understanding and helping shape the sound of Coleman’s music.
TOMORROW IS THE QUESTION!
Coleman’s second album, made in early 1959, introduced a fresh sound with the absence of the piano. The empathy between the alto saxophonist and trumpeter Don Cherry had developed to a great degree. Red Mitchell or Percy Heath on bass and Shelly Manne on drums do a fine job, although Ornette would find his dream group a few months later when he made his Atlantic debut with Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. As always, great tunes here and wonderfully expressive solos by Coleman and Cherry.
CHANGE OF THE CENTURY
The second album by the phenomenal quartet of Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins (October 1959). They breathed and swung as one on Ornette’s incredibly original and attractive compositions. This music is as fresh today as it was when it was made more than forty years ago.
This bold 1960 jazz record with a Jackson Pollack painting on its cover was billed as by the Ornette Coleman Double Quartet. Ornette, Don Cherry, Scott LaFaro are heard on the left and Eric Dolphy (on bass clarinet), Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell are on the right. This is free playing, but not a free-for-all. There is always a beat, a soloist and recurring riffs and motifs. The master is 37 minutes, issued in two parts on LP.
SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME
After introducing his striking saxophone and composing style on two Contemporary albums, Ornette found the perfect ensemble with jazz musicians Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. The music on their first album, made in May 1959, is bold, joyful, adventurous and refreshing. It sounds as if it were made yesterday. One of the best jazz albums of all time!
ART OF THE IMPROVISERS
This was the first release of gems from Atlantic’s great 1959-61 sessions by the quartet with Don Cherry that were not issued at the time. “Just For You” is from THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME. “The Circle” is from CHANGE OF THE CENTURY. “Beethoven,” “Moon” and “Bebop” are from THIS IS OUR MUSIC. “Alchemy” is from ORNETTE. “Harlem’s Manhattan” is from ORNETTE ON TENOR.
GOLDEN CIRCLE-VOL 1 VG
In 1962, Ornette Coleman, a jazz artist who’d rocked the jazz world three years earlier, debuted his new trio with classical bassist David Izenson and drummer Charles Moffett, introducing an entirely new sound. Then abruptly he announced his retirement. When he re-emerged two years later, he reformed this unique trio and signed with Blue Note Records. On his first European tour, producer Francis Wolff met the trio in Stockholm and recorded them for two nights at the Golden Circle performing eight new compositions.
NEW YORK IS NOW
Ornette Coleman’s April/May 1968 session with Dewey Redman, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones produced two superb albums: “New York Is Now” and “Love Call”. The music has been digitally remixed from the original four-track masters with several previously unissued performances added.
COMP SCIENCE FICTION-2
The great ’71-72 sessions, issued on “Science Fiction” and “Broken Shadows”, have been called his creative rebirth. The original quartet with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins and a quintet with Dewey Redman, Bobby Bradford, Haden and Ed Blackwell perform three tunes each. Then they combine for four powerful septet performances. The writing and playing is electrifying. There are also two fascinating vocal pieces with Asha Puthili, two blues with Webster Armstrong, Cedar Walton and Jim Hall and a recitation by David Henderson. One unissued tune and an alternate take have been added to the original albums.
TOWN HALL CONCERT
At this December 21, 1962 concert, Ornette Coleman introduced a thrilling new trio with bassist David Izenson and drummer Charles Moffett. The highlight is the achingly emotive “Sadness” on which Ornette’s voice-like alto is supported by Izenson’s mournful bowed bass. “Dedication To Poets And Writers’ is a Coleman composition for string quartet. Shortly after this concert, Ornette would abruptly announce his retirement. Fortunately, when he became active again three years later, he reformed this same incredible trio, which was recorded most famously at a London concert and at the Golden Circle in Stockholm in late 1965.
This is one of the most adventurous and critically acclaimed of the albums by the Ornette Coleman quartet featuring Don Cherry. It is the only session that features the rhythm team of Scott LaFaro and Ed Blackwell. “Proof Readers”, previously available only on Coleman’s Complete Atlantic box set is added to the original album.
THIS IS OUR MUSIC-LP
This album came from two marathon summer 1960 sessions with Ed Blackwell replacing Billy Higgins in the quartet that still included Don Cherry and Charlie Haden. It contains a number of classic Coleman compositions including “Blues Connotations” and one of the few non-originals he recorded in his career, “Embraceable You.”
PTAH, THE EL DAOUD
Alice Coltrane assembled an outstanding quintet (Joe Henderson, Pharoah Sanders, Ron Carter and Ben Riley) for this beautiful and riveting album, rooted in the blues, spirituality and modality. On “Blue Nile”, Alice plays harp and both saxophonists switch to flutes.
JOURNEY TO SATCH
Recorded in 1970, this album is among Alice Coltrane’s best, featuring Pharoah Sanders on soprano saxophone, Cecil McBee or Charlie Haden on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. She explores modal jazz music with Eastern influences and a deep spirituality that gives her music its own texture and flavor.
A MONASTIC TRIO
A quartet with Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison and Ben Riley and trio with Garrison and Rashied Ali comprised this, her first album after John Coltrane’s passing.
JOHN COLTRANE WITH ARCHIE SHEPP
NEW THING AT NEWPORT
The complete 1965 Newport Jazz Festival sets by Coltrane’s quartet and Archie Shepp’s quartet with Bobby Hutcherson, Barre Phillips and Joe Chambers. Highlights include Coltrane’s blistering “One Down, One Up” and Shepp’s “Gingerbread, Gingerbread Boy” and “Rufus (Swung His Face At Last To The Wind, Then His Neck Snapped).
COMPLETE SUN SHIP SESSIONS
These five pieces form a suite of spiritual searching, shifting freely from tranquility to turbulence. This August, 1965 session is one of the last by the classic quartet. John Coltrane’s “Sun Ship” session was recorded at the RCA Recording studio on 24th Street by engineer Bob Simpson who also did superb work for Impulse with Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and others. The original three-track masters with the tenor sax on one track, the piano and bass on another and the drums on the third track were recently discovered, enabling the complete session to be released for the first time. Kevin Reeves recently remixed the entire session with great sonic results, improving great on the original LP mix.
LIVE IN SEATTLE
The Coltrane Quartet moving further toward free form with Pharoah Sanders and bassist Rafael Garrett added on this September 1965 club date. Added to the original double album are previously unreleased versions of “Body And Soul” and “Afro Blue”.
In February, 1967, Coltrane recorded these intense and beautiful duets with Rashied Ali, the drummer who replaced Elvin Jones in his group. With Ali’s unique rhythmic conception, these performances are more austere than the tenor saxophonist’s previous excursions with Jones, but no less passionate and innovative.