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Avant Garde/Free Jazz; Fusion (1959 - 1990)


7. all styles of jazz from Dixieland to contemporary are still being performed and recorded today; all style dates given are approximations of when each respective style came to the forefront of jazz and experienced its most concentrated development; of course, styles and dates overlap

8. The octet on Ornette Coleman’s 1960 release Free Jazz was comprised of alto sax, pocket trumpet (a smaller, specially made trumpet), regular trumpet, bass clarinet, two basses, and two drum sets

9. IHJ = selection is found on Willie Hill’s The Instrumental History of Jazz; JIA = selection is found on the Jazz in America website (www.jazzinamerica.org)

I. Avant Garde/Free Jazz (1959-1970)

jazz images 1

Anthony Braxton

A. A Reaction to Cool and Hard Bop


if Bebop was a reaction to Swing, Cool was a reaction to the reaction, and Hard Bop was a reaction to the reaction to the reaction, then Free Jazz was a reaction to all that 



Swing, Bebop, Cool, and Hard Bop improvisations were based on predetermined chord progressions, standard forms, and choruses (see Lesson Plan 2) while Free Jazz improvisations were generally not based on predetermined chord progressions, forms, and choruses  



Free Jazz musicians “freed” themselves of these “constraints,” improvising solely on the emotion of the moment 



with Free Jazz, traditional values of melody, harmony, and rhythm were discarded, providing more improvisational freedom for the soloist; preconceived notions of what jazz was “supposed” to be (and even what music was “supposed” to be) were laid to the wayside 



Free Jazz allowed for the exploration of new tonal colors, that is, new harmonies (or lack of same), sounds, and musically expressed emotions  



from its earliest roots (i.e., the music of West African slaves), jazz has been related to and represented freedom; embedded in Free Jazz was the freedom: 



to explore new musical horizons 



to improvise in “unorthodox” ways 



from the musical past 



from traditional melodies 



from common practice scales, chords, and rhythms 



Free Jazz pushed the limits of what musicians could play and what audiences could accept 



Free Jazz widened the emotional and expressive parameters of jazz 



discarding European chord progressions, Free Jazz became even more Afrocentric than Hard Bop; it reached back to the ethnic roots of the music, becoming modern, in a sense, by returning to the primitive 

B. Performance Practices



the size and instrumentation of Avant Garde/Free Jazz groups were more varied than those of prior jazz genres (e.g., Ornette Coleman’s recording Free Jazz in 1960 featured a “double quartet,” that is, two quartets playing together each having bass and drums and two horns)8 



the music was not based on traditional chords, forms, or structures 



the music was not tonal, that is, based on an accepted, somewhat predictable series of notes and chords; instead it was atonal, that is not based on an accepted, somewhat predictable series of notes and chords 



the concept of pitch varied according to musical circumstances, personal feelings of the performers, context, accompanying rhythms, etc., not what notes sounded “right” with the chord being played at the moment; intonation (i.e., playing “in tune” as opposed to playing “in the cracks” between the notes on the piano) was a matter of context and expression 



the use of rhythm was highly varied, often with no steady pulse; melodies and phrases served as the impetus for rhythm and pulse and vice versa 

C. Important Figures



Ornette Coleman, alto saxophone (1930-2015)

watch video Video on how Ornette Coleman changed the direction of jazz in 1959 



Cecil Taylor, piano (1929-2018)

watch video Video of Cecil Taylor improvising freely 



Art Ensemble of Chicago led by trumpet player Lester Bowie (1941-1999)

watch video Video of the Art Ensemble of Chicago playing "Pan Burundi" 

D. Listening Examples


"Enter Evening," Cecil Taylor (IHJ), and/or "Full Force," Art Ensemble of Chicago(IHJ), and/or "Lonely Woman," Ornette Coleman (JIA)9 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer Lonely Woman - Ornette Coleman

Video Clips

videospacer Art Ensemble of Chicago - Pan Burundi
videospacer Cecil Taylor - Piano Solo
videospacer Ornette Coleman - Live in Cologne
videospacer Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman
videospacer Ornette Coleman - Theme From a Symphony
the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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