Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come

Inside the National Recording Registry

Friday, December 06, 2013

In 2013, the Library of Congress placed 25 new works into its National Recording Registry, a collection of historic music, speeches, and other audio documents that the Library will preserve for all time. One of those works was a 1959 record with the bold title The Shape of Jazz to Come. It was saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s third album — he wasn’t yet 30 years old — but it lived up to its promise.

Coleman was one of the architects of free jazz, a form that broke from conventions of soloing over chords (known to musicians as “playing the changes”) that had carried from Dixieland into bebop. With Coleman’s strong melodic sense, the collective improvisation doesn’t feel chaotic. “When you’re improvising, listening to the other players, that’s occurring on such a deep level that it’s almost impossible to describe,” says Sonny Rollins, one of the great sax players of the era. On The Shape of Jazz to Come, with Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums, Coleman set a high bar for spontaneous invention.

For many fans, though, free jazz — Coleman’s music, Eric Dolphy’s, Albert Ayler’s — was a rupture in the tradition that bordered on heresy. “It may be hard to imagine today, but back then it was a much different society,” says Denardo Coleman, the son of and sometimes the drummer for Ornette. “When you talk about going against the grain or going against the wave, you were going against a tidal wave.”

    Music Playlist
  1. Lonely Woman
    Artist: Ornette Coleman
    Album: The Shape of Jazz to Come
    Label: Atlantic
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Fine and Mellow
    Artist: Billie Holliday & Lester Young
    Album: A Musical Romance
    Label: Sbme Special Mkts.
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Eventually
    Artist: Ornette Coleman
    Album: The Shape of Jazz to Come
    Label: Atlantic
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. I Want to be Happy
    Artist: Sonny Rollins
    Album: Live in Europe 1959
    Label: Solar Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Congeniality
    Artist: Ornette Coleman
    Album: The Shape of Jazz to Come
    Label: Atlantic
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Peace
    Artist: Ornette Coleman
    Album: The Shape of Jazz to Come
    Label: Atlantic
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Denardo Coleman, John Litweiler and Sonny Rollins

Contributors:

Ben Manilla and Devon Strolovitch

Comments [2]

Holden Caulfield

oh get a life.. many Jews pronounce it either way. and even if "wrong',would not engaging a term for fear of mispronunciation;really be a more dignified thing to do ?

Dec. 07 2013 04:19 PM
areve from metro Boston, WGBH asking for money

If you people or your announcer don't know how to pronounce "chutzpah," (long u, not short u) then don't use it.

Dec. 07 2013 08:20 AM

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