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Free jazz

The association between abstract expressionism and free jazz is a long one. It begins with Atlantic's use of Jackson Pollock on the cover of Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman's Double Quartet. [May 2006]

Related: Thurston Moore's top ten free jazz underground - experimental music - avant-garde music - free - jazz - music

Sun Ra


Free jazz, or progressive jazz, is a movement of jazz music characterized by diminished dependence on formal constraints. Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, it was pioneered by artists such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Bill Dixon and Paul Bley. Some of the best known examples are the later works of John Coltrane.

While free jazz is most often associated with the era of its birth, many musicians including Peter Brotzmann, Cecil Taylor, Mars Williams, Ken Vandermark, and William Parker have kept the style alive to the present day. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_jazz [Feb 2005]

Jazz punk

When jaded music-nuts, chin-strokers and hipster whipper-snappers mull about things like 'where did punk rock come from,' very rarely do you hear anything about jazz. Some poor souls are under the misconception that "jazz" only means Chuck Mangione or George Benson, forgetting such pioneers as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler, all of whom are the real grand-daddies of punk. --Billy Bob Hargus,1996 http://www.furious.com/perfect/jazzpunk.html

Years later, when punk started up, some of the players were also jazz fans, especially the incestuous New York scene. Patti Smith's second album, Radio Ethiopia, contained a frenzied title-track that rivals "L.A. Blues." (Supposedly, Ornette himself was slated to play on it). Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of Television certainly had Coltrane and Ayler in mind when they took off on their solos. Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine sounded like this was where his head was at also. In all, they had the same thing in mind as Lou Reed when he was trying to get his guitar to imitate the jazz he loved.
http://www.furious.com/perfect/jazzpunk.html The Real Godfathers of Punk by Billy Bob Hargus (July 1996)

Direct link between free jazz and punk rock

So what is the real, direct link between the free jazz of '50s and '60s and punk rock? One big difference is that in free jazz there were very talented, accomplished musicians playing complex music. With punk, you had a bunch of amateurs who played simple music. They did and still do have a lot in common though. Both were (and are) hated by many so-called critics, writers and the old guard of their respective types of music. They also each re-wrote the the whole goddamn book on their own music, challenged many preconceptions and opened many eyes- you may hate them but it's hard to ignore each of them. Maybe most importantly, they each spawned a sub-culture of musicians, bands, clubs, scenes, record labels and all kinds of collectives to help nuture their own music. This was important because it took YEARS for either style to be accepted and assimliated into the mainstream. Still, the two types of music are, mostly, as exclusive of each other as they were in the heydey of punk or Free Jazz (hey, how about FREE PUNK then?). -- Billy Bob Hargus


  1. New York Eye & Ear Control (1964 Film) [SOUNDTRACK] John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, Gary Peacock & Sonny Murray Albert Ayler With Don Cherry [1 CD, Amazon US]
    The soundtrack to Michael Snow's all but forgotten film "New York Eye and Ear Control," now stands as a document of the New York's mid-60s avant-garde jazz scene. This disc, originally released on the ESP label, brings together some of the movements biggest players -- Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai, Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray. While this record is most often associated with Ayler (probably because he is the biggest name and it is his Trio at the time plus three) it is truly a collective group effort, with Rudd and Tchicai surprisingly stealing the show. Unfortunately, the Ayler-Cherry collaboration does not live up to its potential, but it is still worth exploring the "Eye and Ear." -- Michael B Richman for amazon.com
  2. SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century - Sonic Youth [2 CD, Amazon US]
    Wildly influential four-piece Sonic Youth have self-released their version of a tribute to the 20th century: two discs of noisy interpretations of modern, experimental classical scores. The group has chosen composers whose works leave a great amount of innovation open to the performer. This chance-embracing approach--typified and in some senses originated by John Cage--is one of the crucial turning points of "new" music. What's great about this CD is that it demonstrates the freewheeling, decidedly unserious spirit behind this music, essentially combining the legacies of punk rock and out-sound. In addition to three late works by the chance-loving Cage, there are pieces by current Merce Cunningham collaborator Takehisa Kosugi, minimalist giant Steve Reich, "deep-listening" drone lover Pauline Oliveros, and Fluxus founder George Maciunas. Longtime collaborator Wharton Tiers, the young everything-ist Jim O'Rourke, and even some of the composers themselves join in on these exercises. The result is messy, fun, and anarchic, with occasional revelations (notably James Tenney's "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion"). It's not a disc to play all the time, but it is a challenging, enthused record that ideally will point listeners toward some of the most vital music of the last half of the last decade of the second millennium. --Mike McGonigal [...]
  3. Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions - Complete - Various Artists - Jazz [CD Box Set, Amazon US]
    Disc: 1 1. Jays - Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre 2. New Times - Richard Harper 3. Over the Rainbow - Byard Lancaster 4. Rainbows - Jerry Griffin 5. Uso Dance - Fred Hopkins 6. Need to Smile - Flight to Sanity 7. Naomi - Richard Harper 8. 73-S Kelvin - Barry Altschul 9. And Then They Danced - Marion Brown Disc: 2 1. Locomotf No. 6 - Wadada Leo Smith 2. Portrait of Frank Edward Weston - Alex Blake 3. Clarity 2 - Fred Hopkins 4. Black Robert - Dave Burrell 5. Blue Phase - Ahmed Abdullah 6. Short Short - Andrew Cyrille 7. Tranquil Beauty - Hamiet Bluiett 8. Pensive - Julius Hemphill Disc: 3 1. Push Pill - Karen Borca 2. Zaki - Fred Hopkins 3. Shout Song - David Murray 4. Something's Cookin' - Sunny Murray & Untouchable Factor 5. Chant - Jerome Cooper

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