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January 19, 2010

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz, Part Two of Two

I'm always trying to create similarities between free jazz, and specifically Ornette Coleman, with Minimal and Conceptual Art. Just like Ad Reinhardt's famous quote, "art is art, everything else is everything else." For Ornette, the same could be applied -- sound is.

Ornette played in the moment. He was only concerned with sound and wasn't restricted with chords or specific keys. Nothing else mattered, not the past, not the future, but the moment in which sounds were made. Before 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz concluded, they discussed how The Shape of Jazz to Come changed jazz mostly for the second half of the 20th century out of any of the other three albums featured.

Lou Reed shared that he couldn't "understand a negative reaction" to Coleman's playing. I often argue that The Velvet Underground seemed more inspired by Ornette Coleman than perhaps other Rock and Roll music. "Not a day goes by when I'm not humming 'Lonely Woman'," Reed said.

Coleman always wanted to immediately create something new. He was never satisfied with the norm, and for that, his music was so important for the next stages and sculpting of jazz. He's influenced rock, neo-classical, and a whole movement of jazz musicians through the 60s, 70s and beyond. Seeing Coleman perform and having the opportunity to shake his hand back in 2008 was one of my greatest joys.

Jazz did a lot for America, and the mid-20th century was such a relevant era. 1959 focused a lot on the crucial times during the civil rights movement. Even garnering the success of these musicians, they were still often confronted with unequal opportunities. This film did an amazing job arguing that jazz played a major role in the strive for equality. One of the best lines was from Stanley Crouch when he said, "Obama doesn't know it, but jazz is the reason he was elected."


dave m said...

Just stumbled on your blog. Great stuff. You hit on much of the jazz that I really care about.

I really hope this film is available on DVD soon, and I'll probably go find this book. thanks!

Matthew D. said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the comment, it's much appreciated and it's great know people our checking out the space.

I too wish it would come to DVD. It's a BBC production so maybe it'll make it across the pond someday.