Ornette Coleman passed away on Thursday, June 11. Known primarily as a saxophonist but also a trumpeter and violinist, Coleman was a giant of the scene and his contributions to jazz were seismic. His 1961 LP Free Jazz was ground zero for experimental improvisation. It is a rare early '60s album best heard in stereo, not mono, as it was recorded with two different quartets playing simultaneously, one in each channel. The lineup includes major players including Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, and Charlie Haden. When I made my nascent moves into learning jazz, this was the first album that I bought. It remains a colossus in music history as well as one of my favorite jazz records. The original album has one composition--the title track--running 37 minutes (the side break on the LP comes at 19:27). Here it is in its entirety. If you're interested in jazz at all I encourage you to just let it play through, maybe while you're doing something else. It's a contender for jazz's most important album.
“I don’t want them to follow me. I want them to follow themselves, but to be with me.” ~ Ornette Coleman
"Some walked in and out before they could finish a drink, some sat mesmerized by the sound, others talked constantly to their neighbors at the table or argued with drink in hand at the bar". ~ George Hoefer in Downbeat on Ornette at the Five Spot in 1959
“I listened to him high, and I listened to him cold sober. I even played with him. I think he’s jiving, baby.” ~trumpeter Roy Eldridge
1961 - The album features a double quartet, one in each stereo channel. The personnel consists of Coleman's touring quartet, augmented by returning Coleman Quartet drummer Billy Higgins, multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Bassist Scott LaFaro, whom Coleman had worked with the previous two days on sessions for Gunther Schuller, would both appear on this album and replace bassist Charlie Haden in the Quartet for Coleman's next album, Ornette!.
The rhythm sections play simultaneously, and though there is a succession of solos as is usual in jazz, they are peppered with freeform commentaries by the other horns that often turn into full-scale collective improvisation. The pre-composed material is a series of brief, dissonant fanfares for the horns which serve as interludes between solos. Not least among the album's achievements was that it was the first album-length improvisation, nearly forty minutes, which was unheard of at the time - Wikipedia