Dixieland and swing stylists improvise melodically and bop, cool and hard bop players follow chord structures in their solos. Free Jazz was a radical departure from past styles for typically after playing a quick theme, the soloist does not have to follow any progression or structure and can go in any unpredictable direction. When Ornette Coleman largely introduced Free Jazz to New York audiences (although Cecil Taylor had preceded him with less publicity), many of the bop musicians and fans debated about whether what was being played would even qualify as music; the radicals had become conservatives in less than 15 years. Free Jazz, which overlaps with the avant-garde, remains a controversial and mostly underground style, influencing the modern mainstream while often being ignored.

Avant-garde Jazz differs from Free Jazz in that it has more structure in the ensembles (more of a "game plan") although the individual improvisations are generally just as free of conventional rules. In the best Avant-Garde performances it is difficult to tell when compositions end and improvisations begin; the goal is to have the solos be an outgrowth of the arrangement. As with Free Jazz, the Avant-Garde came of age in the 1960's and has continued almost unnoticed as a menacing force in the jazz underground, scorned by the mainstream that it influences. Among its founders in the mid-to-late 1950's were pianist Cecil Taylor, altoist Ornette Coleman and keyboardist-bandleader Sun Ra. John Coltrane became the avant-garde's most popular (and influential) figure and from the mid-1960's on the avant-garde innovators made a major impact on jazz, helping to push the music beyond bebop.

(Scott Yanow)


John Coltrane - Ascencion

Listen to: Ascension

Coltrane, John (ts); Hubbard, Freddie; Johnson Dewey (tp); Brown, Marion; Tchicai, John (as); Sanders, Pharoah; Shepp, Archie (ts); Tyner, McCoy (p); Davis, Art; Garrison, Jimmy (dr); Jones, Elvin (dr)

Recorded: June 1965



John Coltrane - Kulu Se Mama

Listen to: Kulu Se Mama

Coltrane, John (ts, perc); Sanders, Pharoah (ts, perc); Garrett, Donald Rafael (bcl, b, perc); Tyner, McCoy (p); Garrison, Jimmy (b); Butler, Frank (dr, perc); Jones, Elvin (dr); Lewis, Juno (voc, perc)

Recorded: 14-10-1965



Ornette Coleman - Something Else

Listen to: Chippie

Coleman, Ornette (as); Cherry, Don (tp); Norris, Walter (p); Payne, Don (b); Higgins, Billy (dr)

Recorded: Febuary 10/22, March 24 1958



Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come

Listen to: Lonely Woman

Coleman, Ornette (as); Cherry, Don (tp); Haden, Charlie (b); Higgins, Billy (dr)

Recorded: 22-05-1959



Ornette Coleman - Free Jazz

Listen to: Free Jazz

Coleman, Ornette (as); Cherry, Don (tp); LaFaro, Scott (b); Higgins, Billy (dr); Dolphy, Eric (bcl); Hubbard, Freddie (tp); Haden, Charlie (b); Blackwell, Ed (dr)

Recorded: 21-12-1960



Ornette Coleman - At The Golden Circle Vol. 1

Listen to: Faces And Places

Coleman, Ornette (as); Izenzon, David (b); Moffett, Charles (dr)

Recorded: 03-12-1965



Ornette Coleman - New York Is Now

Listen to: The Garden Of Souls

Coleman, Ornette (as); Redman, Dewey (ts); Garrison, Jimmy (b); Jones, Elvin (dr)

Recorded: 29 April & 7 May 1968



Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Fanfare Of The Warriors

Listen to: Fanfare Of The Warriors

Bowie, Lester (tp, flh); Mitchell, Roscoe (as, ts, piccolo); Jarman, Joseph (as, ts, fl); Abrams, Muhal Richard (p); Favors, Malachi (b); Moye, Don (perc)

Recorded: September 1973



Cecil Taylor - Looking Ahead

Listen to: Of What

Taylor, Cecil (p); Griffith, Earl (vib); Neidlinger, Buell (b); Charles, Dennis (dr)

Recorded: 09-06-1958



Archie Shepp - Fire Music

Listen to: Hambone

Curson, Ted (tp); Orange, Joseph (tb); Shepp, Archie (ts); Brown, Marion (as); Johnson, Reggie (b); Chambers, Joe (dr)

Recorded: 09-03-1965



Archie Shepp - On This Night

Listen to: The Mac Man

Shepp, Archie (ts); Hutcherson, Bobby (vib); Grimes, Henry (b); Ali, Rashied (dr); Blackwell, Ed (perc)

Recorded: 31-12-1970



Archie Shepp - The Way Ahead

Listen to: Damn It I Know

Shepp, Archie (ts); Owens, Jimmy (tp); Moncur, Grachan (tb); Davis, Walter (p); Carter, Ron (b); Harris, Beaver (dr)

Recorded: 29-01-1968



Albert Ayler - Live In Greenwich Village

Listen to: Holy Ghost

Ayler, Albert (ts); Ayler, Don (tp); Freedman, Joel (cello); Worrell, Lewis (b); Murray, Sunny (dr)

Recorded: 28-03-1965



Albert Ayler - Fondation Maeght Nights

Listen to: In Heart Only

Ayler, Albert (ts, ss); Maria, Mary (voc, ss); Cobbs, Call (p); Tintweiss, Steve (b); Blairman, Allen (dr)

Recorded: 25 & 27 July 1970



The Trio - The Trio

Listen to: Green Walnut

Surman, John (b-sax); Phillips, Barre (b); Martin, Stu (dr)

Recorded: March 1970



Sun Ra - Other Voices, Other Blues

Listen to: Springtime And Summer Idyll

Sun Ra (keyb); Gilmore, John (ts); Ray, Michael (tp); Ali, Luqman (dr)

Recorded: 8/13 Januar 1978



Sun Ra - The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra Vol. 2

Listen to: The Sun Myth

Sun Ra (p, perc); Allen, Marshall (as, picc, fl, perc); Patrick, Pat (bs, perc); Miller, Walter (tp); Gilmore, John (ts, perc); Cummings, Robert (bcl, perc); Boykins, Ronnie (b); Blank, Roger (perc)

Recorded: 16-11-1965



Don Cherry - Complete Communion

Listen to: Complete Communion

Cherry, Don (co); Barbieri, Gato (ts); Grimes, Henry (b); Blackwell, Ed (dr)

Recorded: 24-12-1965



Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch

Listen to: Out To Lunch

Hubbard, Freddie (tp); Dolphy, Eric (as); Davis, Richard (b); Williams, Anthony "Tony" (dr); Hutcherson, Robert "Bobby" (vib)

Recorded: 25-02-1964



Joe Harriot - Abstract

Listen to: Oleo

Keane, Shake (tp); Harriott, Joe (as); Smythe, Pat (p); Goode, Coleridge (b); Orr, Bobby (dr)

Recorded: 10-05-1962



Dave Liebman - The Loneliness Of A Long Distance Runner

Listen to: The Discipline Of Practice

Liebman, David (ss)

Recorded: November 1985



Quest - Quest

Listen to: Lonely Woman

Liebman, Dave (ss, afl); Beirach, Richie (p); Mraz, George (b); Foster, Al (dr)

Recorded: 28 & 29 December 1981



Grachan Moncur - Some Other Stuff

Listen to: Gnostic

Moncur, Grachan (tb); Shorter, Wayne (ts); Hancock, Herbie (p); McBee, Cecil (b); Williams, Tony (dr)

Recorded: 06-07-1964