April 30, 2009

FINNEGAN'S WAKE ON A HORN:

Bluesy and Achingly Beautiful: Coleman's 'The Shape of Jazz to Come' lived up to its title (MARTIN JOHNSON, 4/18/09, WSJ)

As years go, 1959 was a landmark for jazz recordings. Miles Davis created his "Kind of Blue" and John Coltrane made his "Giant Steps." But the most influential jazz album made in 1959 came from Ornette Coleman, then an outcast in that musical community. It was called "The Shape of Jazz to Come."

The record lived up to its title. Mr. Coleman's innovations are often called "free jazz," but that's an oversimplification. While he did loosen the existing rules in an attempt to bring harmony, melody and rhythm into a more equal relationship within the music, Mr. Coleman was no finger-wagging modernist. Nor did he advocate musical anarchy (though to some ears his music still sounds like noise). He wanted to give musicians the freedom to play in accordance with the emotion of the tune, rather than limiting them to the notes and sequences dictated by chord changes, the progression of notes that create the harmonic structure of a song.


The problem is that the subjective is not, by definition art. Your feelings aren't of interest to anyone but you. This sort of freedom is really just monstrous self-absorption. It is inviting to artists because it absolves them of the obligation to strive to create universal beauty, liberates them from being actual artists.


MORE:
-Ornette Coleman: Decades of Jazz on the Edge (Ashley Kahn, 11/13/06, All Things Considered)



Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2009 7:46 AM
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