Jazz 100
The Avant-Garde
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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Sound
Roscoe Mitchell Sextet
1966 [Delmarkl]


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A remarkably influential album that marked the first recordings by members of Chicagoís radical AACM art movement. A range of novelty instruments are employed in a rambling improvisation that is almost completely devoid of rhythm. Three of the musicians appearing, including Mitchell, would go on to form the Art Ensemble of Chicago.





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On the Beach
Philip Cohran
1967 [Zulu]


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Coming out of Sun Ra's band, Philip Cohran was a key figure in the creation of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He uses his cornet and an African thumb piano to unusually compelling sounds on this spiritual avant-garde outing, all within the context of 15-piece unit that thrives on the challenge.





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Eternal Rhythm
Don Cherry
1968 [MPS Records]


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As the free jazz movement gave way to the avant-garde, Don Cherry came to the forefront with this two-track live set. Allmusic critic Brian Olewnick notes that, "Cherry balanced compositional clarity, wild free improvisation, and a totally inclusive musical consciousness in a manner seldom achieved, resulting in a cohesive, spellbinding session."





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Karma
Pharoah Sanders
1969 [Impulse!]


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In the late-60s tenor saxophonist Sanders was the spiritual heir-apparent to the late John Coltrane. A rarity for the avant-garde, this album was actually a commercial hit - with the 30-minute plus 'The Creator Has a Master Plan' scoring plenty of FM air time. Despite all the screaming and yodelling, a surprisingly listenable record.





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Les Stances a Sophie
Art Ensemble of Chicago
1970 [Pathé Marconi]


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Allmusic reviewer Brian Olewnick notes, "…one of the landmark records of the burgeoning avant-garde of the time and, simply put, one of the greatest jazz albums ever." Recorded in Paris as the soundtrack for a French film directed by Moshé Mizrahi, the album is somewhat difficult to find on CD despite its lofty status. Well worth the hunt.





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Journey in Satchidananda
Alice Coltrane
1971 [Impulse!]


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John Coltrane's second wife was a fine jazz musician in her own right. Inspired by the teachings of Swami Satchidananda, this record is a certified world jazz gem. As a classically trained pianist and jazz devotee, Alice put her experience playing in her late-husband's final lineup to good use. Pharoah Sanders is a standout on soprano sax.





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Nation Time
Joe McPhee
1971 [CjR Records]


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Despite never having commercial success, tenor saxophonist Joe McPhee is highly regarded as an innovator in avant-garde circles. The quintet featured on this three-track set is mostly in line with the prevailing genre sensibilities of the time. When organ and electric guitar are added to 'Shakey Jake', things start getting funky.





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Conference of the Birds
Dave Holland Quartet
1972 [ECM]


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Apart from Holland's amazing bass playing - this early ECM classic features some fine work from reed players Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers. While the music here is undeniably free, it is not directionless. Holland is a disciplined and inventive composer and Conference is his defining statement. Not typical of the later ECM sound.





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Black Unity
Pharoah Sanders
1972 [Impulse!]


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Free-jazz icon Pharoah Sanders shows distinct signs of maturation as he tones down the dissonance, and explores and unifies a range of disparate musical influences. The album consists of a single 37-minute excursion described by music critic Joe S. Harrington as, "…an exercise in sustained harmonic groove that cannot be beaten."





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Silent Tongues
Cecil Taylor Silent Tongues
1974 [Freedom]


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Taylor can rightly lay claim to being one of the founding fathers of avant-garde jazz. The pianistís solo concert from the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival is intensely angular. Taylorís piano takes a pretty ferocious pounding many listeners will find quite challenging. But then, that is what Taylor was always all about the challenge.


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