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It's interesting that albums with such grandiose titles (The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, Art of the Improvisers...) should be in many ways so measured and reflective. But what is clear is that this was unashamedly challenging music.
Ornette Coleman had invented something he called harmolodics, used to describe an implied harmony that emerges from the melodic line. The Shape of Jazz to Come is a supreme example of this new approach to making jazz. The music this quartet made was quiet, but the revolution it initiated was wholly indiscreet. No-one could be indifferent to Ornette Coleman. People called it "free jazz" and Ornette himself made a now seminal album of that name a few months later (Atlantic probably wanted to exploit the buzzword of the year), attempting to encapsulate the concept.
Free jazz actually developed into something quite different. But there is no question that the sense of freedom evoked by Ornette's visionary juxtaposition of spontaneous improvisation and structured composition is overwhelming, and justifiably caused both artists and critics to rethink the parameters of the music all over again. Shape contains the first recording of Ornette's most well-known composition, "Lonely Woman", and the stirring "Peace".