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December 21, 2010

Ornette Coleman’s Monumental "Free Jazz" Turns 50

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Ornette Coleman’s infamous double quartet date. A historical recording that not only coined the term, “Free Jazz”, describing the music which was to come throughout the following decades, but also the first ensemble of it’s kind. Eight musicians in a free for all spiral that culminated into a web of beauty. A monumental, extended, free improvisation that was unlike anything heard during it's era, Free Jazz revolutionized music then, and still does today.

Free Jazz was probably the third Coleman album I had ever heard. I loved it instantly. I was hooked to this “new sound” from then on out. Musicians playing off each other, inspiring each other in the moment, reacting to each other, supporting and challenging each other at the same time. With written areas arranged and conducted by Coleman that offered an anchor for the listener and the collective.

Think about the large ensemble pieces this has inspired. Coltrane’s Ascension, for one, an offspring that brought yet another revelation to the Avant-Garde. However, it still borrowed from the past -- down to Jazz’s roots. Similar to Dixieland and New Orleans ensembles that exhibited a similar nature. However, Coleman’s more modern approach eliminated chord changes and allowed orchestrated harmony to be unnecessary.

Coleman’s melodic playing keeps a listener engaged for the most part, and Eric Dolphy moans on the bass clarinet like a bird. Dolphy clearly leads his three other improvisers. Ed Blackwell, a double time wizard, offers a quadratic, sporadic approach to the rhythm, while Billy Higgins stays constant on the back beat. Acting as the spinal chord to this group. Don Cherry is of course his usual self on the pocket trumpet, and Freddie Hubbard sculpts his brassier tone, emulating the licks and lines of hard bop. Hubbard’s contrast is interesting compared to the slurring and emotional slabs of the other horn-men.

Free Jazz further involved another conceptual layer. Rather than a slew of eight players on mixed stereo, Coleman allowed each quartet [reed/brass/bass/drums] to exist on it’s own left or right specific channel. This interaction allows us to experience three recordings on one piece of vinyl. The left channel, the right, and the both mixed. Move back and forth between the two, spend time with each individually. It promotes one to pay attention to details that might otherwise be over heard.

Jazz, right now, is in an era of Renaissance. From the acoustic revolution that started in the 80s, to where we are now constantly honoring pivotal recordings on significant anniversaries. In 2009 we reembarked on sessions that produced Kind of Blue and The Shape of Jazz to Come. in 2010 we continue this new tradition with Free Jazz, A Collective Improvisation By The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet at 50 years.

Recorded 1960, Originally Issued 1961 - Atlantic.
Ornette Coleman - alto saxophone; Eric Dolphy - bass clarinet; Don Cherry - pocket trumpet; Freddie Hubbard -trumpet; Charlie Haden - bass; Scott LaFaro - bass; Billy Higgins - drums; Ed Blackwell - drums.

December 16, 2010

Free N-SPY Trax for the Holidays

I've been following closely and keeping in touch with the folks over at Northern-Spy. If you missed my prior press release post earlier this fall, Northern-Spy is a new indie label out of Brooklyn. The label was created by a few gents that were part of the ESP-Disk' team. Things look promising, and even though the bands represented are not strictly jazz, a lot of the music falls into the far reaching limbs of the Avant-Garde.

Why I bring all of this up, you ask? Free N-SPY Trax for the Holidays. Sample a few cuts and enjoy. Northern-Spy kindly explains below:

Brooklyn’s youngest indie label, Northern-Spy Records, has been following its star for only a short while, but already it’s shining brightly. We (and our fine artists) would like to thank you for coming along the journey with some fine holiday gifts fit for a king. No, we’ve left the myrrh behind, instead we’re offering a little bundle of web-only bonus tracks to download and delight to. Search high and low, you won’t find them on any album — but they’re sure to show up on your next mix tape.
From the team at Northern-Spy and our fine artists, we hope your holidays are filled with joy and send best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!
Follow N-Spy on Twitter and Facebook.

December 8, 2010

Seven Holiday Picks for the Inner Jazz Geek

I know, I know... Lump me in with the rest of the gimmicky Holiday Pick List pages. There's just so much good stuff floating around in the Jazz world I just had to list some awesome products.

This is a stellar package for any Miles Davis head. "A four-disc set, comprising of two CDs that contain the original 94-plus minutes of music, remixed from the original 8-track master tapes in 1988 by Mark Wilder, plus several bonus cuts,a previously unissued performance by the new septet lineup at Tanglewood in the Berkshires, August 1970; and a DVD that contains a previously unissued concert performance by the Miles Davis Quintet filmed in Copenhagen, November 1969; alongside a 48-page color booklet and a 180-gram vinyl double-LP gatefold replication of the original album"
For the complete package, throw in a 750ml bottle (or two: one for now and one for aging) of Dogfish Head Bitches Brew which was co-released with the box set. This Imperial Stout and Tej blend is the perfect companion for the colder months.
An outstanding selection of mostly out of print material. My personal pick would be Noah Howard's, Schizophrenic Blues.

Has to be one of my favorite, complete discographies under a single label. Box sets, CDs, Vinyl, and Digital Download galore.

These are exclusive, limited run editions that are truly for the uber jazz nerd. My favorites would be Andrew Hill Mosaic Select, Anthony Braxton The Complete Arista Recordings, and the newly issued Henry Threadgill Novus & Columbia Recordings. Also, the writings enclosed are true revelations of Jazz history and knowledge.
I have an affinity for all things craft beer. Available in 12oz four packs or 750ml bottles, this tasty brew is dedicated to one of the best Jazz composers of all time and is perfect for sharing with house guests over Christmas. Glassware and wearables available too. Purchases help support the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
6. 2010 Jazz Releases
The Bad Plus, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Dave King, Mary Halvorson, Albert Beger -- just a few artists that spring to mind.

Face it -- independent shops have the deep collections most Jazz fans desire. More so than any Target, Best Buy, etc. etc.. Plus it feels good to support local business.