Ornette Coleman: The Shape Of Jazz To Come

Vinyl reissue with bonuses of the album in which the shape of jazz that came was moving away from chord changes while retaining swing


First, a note about the presentation: 180gm coloured vinyl (although the copy sent was black), thick sturdy cover, same design as original. The introduction to Martin Williams’ original sleeve notes should be credited to Steve Huey, however, as it’s virtually verbatim from All Music Guide To Jazz. On playing, the sound was good but not nearly as clear as my 1966 copy (Atlantic/Polydor  588102)!

But to be honest, it’s of little consequence, as the music is as fresh and immediate as ever and although considered unconventional at the time, it makes you wonder what the fuss was about. The title was prophetic. The music was responsible for redirecting a strand of modern jazz away from chord changes, giving freedom of melodic movement, freer rhythm patterns and unpredictability, yet thanks to drummer Billy Higgins, retaining a great feeling of swing.

It saw the reintroduction of a piano-less group, like Gerry Mulligan’s, but in contrast to Mulligan’s precision, this was closer to earlier New Orleans counterpoint which was louder and rougher, akin to the blues tradition, through the horns’ vocalised approach. This gives the music a direct feeling of communication, as if Coleman is talking to the listener.

There are some classics here – the haunting Lonely Woman the prime example, but Peace follows closely, Haden’s bass exemplary, connecting with directions taken by Higgins and by the leader’s alto and Don Cherry’s cornet, as well as forging his own path. In Congeniality there is the introduction of a medium tempo framework which was to become a feature of Coleman’s future work. As a bonus, Just For You is an additional track, not on the original record.

Altogether, an essential in any jazz collection.

Lonely Woman; Eventually; Peace; Focus On Sanity; Congeniality; Chronology; Just For You (42.20)
Ornette Coleman (as); Don Cherry (c); Charlie Haden (b); Billy Higgins (d). Hollywood, California. 22 May 1959.
Waxtime 950710