The Shape of Jazz to Come album cover
The Shape of Jazz to Come

Ornette Coleman


Atlantic Records had a bigger PR budget than Ornette Coleman’s first label, Contemporary, so his third album was effectively his debut. Fortunately, the quartet he’d assembled — Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, Billy Higgins on drums — was 100% ready for the spotlight. Coleman’s compositions laid fast-moving post-bebop melodies with thorny harmonies over deep, shifting grooves that felt like the blues without necessarily sticking to traditional forms; his ballads, meanwhile, ached with longing. Tempo, melody, and who was “leading” were all subject to constant renegotiation, but the result was some of the most emotionally potent jazz ever made.

Phil Freeman

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