Free Jazz


[wpspoiler name=”Watch Ornette Coleman (on sax) and his Sextet perform in Germany in 1978.” open=”true” style=”aatw-video”][/wpspoiler]

In the 1960s an experimental, seemingly chaotic form called “Free jazz” became popular among jazz musicians, though not as much among the general population. Free jazz was challenging and unhinged, a style of jazz in which all musicians in an ensemble may be improvising wildly at the same time with little regard for a chord progression. The horns in particular made jarring squeaks and squawks, and the drums very rarely kept everyone’s beat. (AVANT-GARDE JAZZ is a similar subgenre, though it features a more predetermined chord structure over which improvising takes place than free jazz.)

“Free jazz” musicians seemed to understand what other free jazz musicians were doing, affording leaders of the movement such as Texas-born, New Orleans and then Los Angeles-based saxophone player ORNETTE COLEMAN great respect for their mastery of the form. Others questioned whether there was a form at all to be found in Coleman’s expansive and, critics claimed, indulgent musical exploration. Coleman himself only claimed to be following the music he found in the world around him.

[Learn about Ornette Coleman’s energizing–and controversial–arrival at “The Five Spot” in New York City’s East Village in 1959 | W 1978 | Listen to Coleman explain his approach to music in this recent infterview: “Sound is to people what the sun is to light.”]


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