Jazz 100
Free Jazz
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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The Shape of Jazz to Come
Ornette Coleman
1959 [Atlantic]


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Shape is generally credited with being the prototype recording for the free jazz movement. It was universally lambasted by critics on release owing to its lack of conventional structure and harmony. This music is quite literally free - it goes in any direction the lead player wants to take it, while the "rhythm" section tries to keep up.





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Change of the Century
Ornette Coleman
1959 [Atlantic]


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Free jazz icon Ornette Coleman's first album for Atlantic didn't hit the shops until 1960 after the legendary Shape of Jazz to Come had been released. Both are groundbreaking records, if somewhat pretentiously named. The music relies on the instincts of the altoist's talented quartet - which includes Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins.





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Out There
Eric Dolphy
1960 [Prestige/New Jazz]


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Charles Mingus alumni Eric Dolphy's second album as a bandleader points in the direction of his classic 1964 album Out to Lunch!, without ever really approaching its ferocity. Made at a time when most critics were having extreme difficulty coming to grips with the avant-garde, Dolphy is unrepentant in his approach. Out to Lunch! fans will love it.





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Free Jazz
Ornette Coleman
1960 [Atlantic]


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While free jazz had been taking shape before this record came out, this is certainly the album that defined the genre. Altoist Coleman features in the 'left' quartet (the one playing into the left stereo channel) and another line-up handles the 'right'. From there on, it is a single extended collective improvisation that is surprisingly coherent.





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Destination Out!
Jackie McLean
1963 [Blue Note]


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A standout amongst McLean's consistently good records for Blue Note, this record finds him again teamed with trombonist Grachan Moncur III and vibes-man Bobby Hutcherson. A notable addition, drummer Roy Haynes lends his considerable talents to the mix - which is an adventurous freeform blend of blues, groove and hard bop.





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Out to Lunch!
Eric Dolphy
1964 [Blue Note]


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Stylistically angular and dissonant, Lunch has an underlying tonal quality that at times approaches conventionality. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard occasionally strays into bop territory - all while maintaining Dolphy's overall artistic direction. But it is Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone that gives the album much of its free-form distinctiveness.





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Spiritual Unity
Albert Ayler Trio
1964 [ESP/Get Back]


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This free jazz classic has Ayler's tenor transcending earthly constraints in search of the otherworld. Bassist Gary Peacock is no less inventive and drummer Sunny Murray uses his cymbals symbolically. With this record earlier free jazz that tended to maintain some sense of harmony was starting to give way to truly free avant-garde forms.





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Evolution
Grachan Moncur III
1964 [Blue Note]


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Trombonist Grachan Moncur III - a Jackie McLean free-jazz disciple - made a stunning debut as a leader on this fine record. It features four original extended compositions and a stack of invention, all supported impressively by alto McLean, vibes-man Bobby Hutcherson, and a Lee Morgan trumpet catered to fit the day. A sleeper worth checking out.


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