365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 11

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come

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It’s hard in this day and age, to fully understand how controversial this album was upon release. To modern ears, it sounds beautiful, possibly quirky, certainly original, but it unquestionably sounds like … JAZZ. Tho that’s not what ALL folks thought at the time.

It was probably the quartet’s fabled residency at the Five Spot that followed the release of this album that REALLY cemented the revolutionary reputation—those shows BLEW people’s minds!

Maybe it was the lack of a chord-based instrument; in Ornette’s musical cosmology, that allowed for more harmonic freedom. But Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan had gone sans piano before, tho admittedly not to quite the same effect. Maybe it was Ornette’s almost infantillacly squeaky plastic sax tone—tho honestly, was that any worse than many of Bird’s recordings? Maybe it was Don Cherry. Certainly to my ears, he’s the true freak of the show, in all the best ways. There never was anything quite like Don Cherry, and there never has been since.

Whatever it was, the album and quartet both were a lightning rod, and the album still compels today. Peace is one of my favorite works on the record, and of course Lonely Woman deserves every accolade it receives. And Congeniality bounces as bouncily as anything Bird ever bounced off Billie. If this was the shape of jazz to come, then jazz had a good future in front of it. And it did.


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