Saturday, September 26, 2009

Great "New Thing" Albums

One of the things I have been thinking about lately are those great albums produced as the "new thing" blossomed in jazz in the late fifties and early sixties. The reach for freedom from earlier musical constraints gave rise to some very challenging but very rewarding recordings. Most of the major jazzmen felt it necessary to make their contributions. Wayne Shorter's All Seeing Eye, and Etcetera, are good examples.

But there are a number of essential recordings that mark this event. Here is a quick list off the top of my head:
1. Cecil Taylor/Jazz Advance
2. Andrew Hill/Point of Departure
3. Eric Dolphey/Out to Lunch
4. Jackie McLean/Let Freedom Ring
5. Ornette Coleman/Shape of Jazz to Come (see comments)
Those four should surely be included in any best hundred, or best fifty, and maybe even best twenty jazz recordings. Several years ago I took a long drive and made up a mixer CD for the trip. I put the Hill recording on the playlist, but I had only listened to in once before. When it started playing I was taken aback by the compelling invention of the music. What the Hell is this? I had to pull over and grab the print off that I had with me. Each of these recordings had that power.

Right now though I am listening to McLean's magnum opus. It is clearly page four jazz. The circuit of melody is replaced by a moving point of intense and unpredictable exploration. It carries you along moment to moment with a Zen-like disregard for where you are going. The only restraint is the number of keys on the horn, that, and Jackie's warble. Here is a sample from this essential album:
Jackie McLean/Melody for Melonae/Let Freedom Ring
McLean's alto is backed by Walter Davis Jr. on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums.

I am wondering what else to put on this list. If you have any ideas, please leave a post.


  1. I think you have to include in that list Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz To Come. An amazing LP.

  2. Of course! I'm a dunderhead. I have yet to really explore Coleman's music, but I got a copy of Shape of Jazz to Come with a record club deal that also netted Kind of Blue.

    I remember reading an interview with Johnny Winter where he mentioned Coleman as someone he was listening to. I think Winter (whom I love) was pulling a fast one. But Shape of Jazz fits very well with the list I put together above.