A recent BBC series about jazz described the year this album was released (along with those by Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Miles Davies) as the year that changed jazz and this album as one of the key influences and the start of free jazz. For many listeners this could be a major turn-off - but don't be, this is fabulous listening.
Coleman has an original approach to jazz that focusses on not on chords but individual expression. The opening moments of the first track, Lonely Woman, has Coleman and Cherry playing together without chords but it all merges to be exciting, emotional playing. The remaining tracks build on this and as a piece this creates a memorable album.
like many jazz enthusiasts, I have lost whole evenings to free jazz and wondered why I'd bothered. This album shows what can be done in the hands of a master.
on 23 February 2009
In my opinion this is the finest of Ornette's albums from the Altantic era, his debut for the label, and an album imbued with a drive and momentum all its own. In many ways, aside from it being one of the great "free" jazz records, I often consider it to be one of my favourite "blues" albums of all time as well. From the affecting "Lonely Woman", to the terrific "Eventually", Ornette's musical aesthetic is perfectly summed up with this recording. Of course, there's many more fine albums to get by this great musician, but for me this one remains the one I return to time and again, twenty years on. The group is outstanding, and as an example of improvised music it's right up there. You have to "go with" Ornette Coleman as a listener, but his musical message is such a powerful and engaging one that to "expect the unexpected" soon becomes a joy.
on 16 June 2007
This is the ideal place to start for anyone interested in Coleman and a recording to rank along Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme. Coleman's departure ("abandonment" is too prejudicial a word) from the chord-based blues and jazz tradition gave him a reputation for difficulty before his forays into free jazz but, as I once read, the startling thing about "The Shape of Jazz to Come" is how melodic and rhythmic is it. "Lonely Woman", stately, mournful and passionate, is one of the finest openings to an album ever but the quality does not abate. The interplay between Coleman and Don Cherry on cornet is spellbinding and the Haden-Higgins bass and drums section is integral in propelling the music with a frequent spring and swing (witness Haden's bassline, including the bowed opening, on the centrepiece "Peace").
This is not a recording to fear or from which to shy. It is groundbreaking but accessible. I had the pleasure to see Coleman live a few years ago on his 75th birthday. His engaged and even ferocious playing belied his frailty and disarming modesty and compelled me to return to his blueprint literally of the shape of jazz to come. To paraphrase someone, this recording is, and is intended to be, seminal.
on 2 June 2001
It seems scarcely believable now that anyone could have regarded Ornette Coleman as an impostor. He was widely misunderstood when he came on the scene, often booed offstage and denied club dates by ignorant and insensitive promoters. Even seasoned musicians walked out on him.
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".
CD1: The Shape of Jazz to Come, Studio album by Ornette Coleman, Recorded May 22, 1959, United States, Running time approx 38 minutes. Original release label Atlantic Records, Producer Nesuhi Ertegün.
The Shape of Jazz to Come was one of the first avant-garde jazz albums ever recorded. It was recorded in 1959 by Coleman's piano-less quartet. The album was considered shocking at the time, because it had no recognizable chord structure and included simultaneous improvisation by the performers in a much freer style than previously seen in jazz.
CD2: Something Else
Studio album by Ornette Coleman, Recorded February 10, 1958 - March 24, 1958, Running time approx 42 minutes. Original released on the Contemporary label. Producer Lester Koenig
Something Else is the 1958 debut album by jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. It is said that the album "shook up the jazz world", revitalizing the union of blues and jazz and restoring "blues to their 'classic' beginnings in African music".
This is another welcome release from Not Now Music and they have plans for many more such reissues from the essential jazz catalogue. The sound quality is excellent and the liner notes once more by Peter Gamble make interesting reading. The packaging looks good and if you have bought a few of these in recent months then you will know that they are a quality production. Great value.
on 1 February 2006
I always find it terribly irritating when people tell me 'owe yes, its a classic' about any album. What have they told me? Absolutely nothing, and so often this is the case with jazz 'classics'. The word 'free' is also often thrown at this album, but is infrequently explained. Well, it is a classic and the word free does have something to do with it. The music here is certainly not of the free jazz scene we see later, in artists such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and in some of Coltrane's work to name but a few. The rhythm section thumps along with the thrust of a bop band, especially in tracks like 'Eventually' and 'Congeniality'. However, while Coleman's sax isn't screeching high and low, it is varying much more in improvising than others were doing at the time. It has the makings of a genre in it, but remains firmly attached to its own time.
Whats really fantastic about this album, is that it has that semi 'free' element to it, while maintaining the freshness of bop. There's something about the way its recorded, that makes it quite a breazy record. The later musings of free jazz officiandos tend to be brooding and dark, but this is much lighter on the pallet. A great album, could be a starting point, but be warned: if someone's told you this is free jazz, then you're in for quite a shock.
on 28 April 2009
Being a newcomer to Jazz i was told to buy this CD,im told its a classic,I listened to it,then played it over again.I have never heard sounds like this before,im amazed at the level of playing skill,Listen to the 9 min" peace" or the blistering Eventually.It blew my socks off.All done with a plastic Sax by Ornette Coleman.
on 27 July 2016
This is a replica of an original album issued by the famous American Label Atlantic. Nothing on the cover mentioned the source used for cutting this unlicensed vinyl. The LP is noisy, and was produced mostly probable using a comercial cd or other digital support. After playing for the first time this LP, I never found on the stylus so much mudd. I paid for an LP that sounds worse than a cd. A trickery !
Do not buy vinyls from dubious labels as Doxy, DOL, Vinyl Lovers, Membrane/Ermitage, Pan-Am, WaxTime, Jazz Wax Records - they are fakes!
Free jazz this ain't. Ornette was later to release a notorious record bluntly entitled Free Jazz, but he was as much a composer as an improviser, exemplified to the full on this wonderful third album from 1959.
I was lucky enough to see Ornette on a rare visit to the UK in the `80s, when he tore the place apart with a blistering set, backed by a tight, loud band, but still playing up a storm on his preferred 'toy sax'. That was later...
This rather lovely sextet of numbers is played with an emphasis on both melody and extemporisation, the opening track Lonely Woman perhaps one of the most haunting compositions in all post-war jazz. Ornette on alto sax and the late Don Cherry on cornet duet on this knotty tune, with Charlie Haden`s bass and drummer Billy Higgins - what a line-up - blending and complementing them perfectly. It's a fine way to begin this diverse album, followed as it is by the frenetic, straining-at-the-leash number Eventually, all staccato phrases and jumpy licks - a hint of the urgency in some of Ornette's later work.
Next track, Peace (not the Horace Silver tune) is an impressionistic nine-minute mid-tempo stroll that is in its way peaceful, but refuses to get too complacent, with a lengthy, fascinatingly exploratory solo early on from Ornette followed by a similarly lyrical solo by Cherry, both backed by Haden's sensitive, soulful bass lines and aptly reserved support from Higgins. Haden's oh-so-brief solo near the end is a momentary thing of simple beauty.
The other three tracks are just as riveting, this being music with a lot going on, plenty to listen to. Focus On Sanity starts with pressing urgency, before giving way to a note-bending bass odyssey courtesy of Haden before the others return to the fold and it all livens up again. You can almost hear Ornette crying out "I`m late, I'm late!"
Congeniality is warm and humorous, befitting its title. A lovely track.
Chronology is a faster workout to round off the album, with terrific work from all concerned.
This portentously titled album was and is a beacon of what we call modern jazz, but much more than that it is packed with great music played with joy, passion, and an intelligence that never sacrifices a certain southern swing - Ornette was a Texan, after all - and will always be one to return to with affection and a very good feeling indeed.
Ornette & co made fascinating shapes.
on 17 September 2014
The man that took me from rock/pop/folk/blues in 1966, in an instant. I heard his 'Live At The Blue Circle, Stockholm' and was knocked sideways when I was 15 years old. Then I bought this album. I consider this album to be in the top five of the most important, ('seminal' is the word they use, I believe), LPs of all musical history. 'Lonely Woman' is the one that I would save on my desert island. Of course I have always had a copy of this music but lost my original vinyl yonks ago. This I have bought to frame and hang on the wall.