Ornette Coleman “Shape of Jazz to Come” (1959)

Track Selection: “Lonely Woman” >


Don Cherry (cor) Ornette Coleman (as) Charlie Haden (b) Billy Higgins (d) recorded Los Angeles, CA, May 22, 1959


Lonley Woman is possibly one of  Ornette’s most iconic and musically accessible pieces, and unsuprisingly was the highlight of his recent appearance on the stage of the London 2011 Jazz Festival.

“The Future” was a recurrent theme in the early to mid-Sixties, in jazz as in art, film, automotive design and popular science writing of the day. In the Sixties, The Future was a place of boundless optimism, and not the apocalyptic dysfunctional vision of the future today. The tradition of Bop was destined to move on, but pulled in different directions: Soul Jazz cooking on the Hammond B3 organ, the School of Cool with the downbeat moody late night sound of the City, the traditionalist swinging Post-Bop often refreshed with mixed Latin or African influences, and the angry expressionism of the Avant Garde and Free Jazz.

Ornette perhaps more than anyone signposted the “future” as self-expression by jazz musicians, music for listening rather than dancing, musician as artist rather than entertainer. “Shape of Jazz to Come” fits perfectly with this direction of travel, with some adventurous unconventional  though not anarchic playing. Haden’s acoustic bass explores the musical potential of this freedom while Billy Higgin provides a percussive third point of reference to this future direction of jazz.

Interesting and stimulating, an antidote to the formulaic structures that came before. And the hegemony of popular formulas in the decades that followed. Unique times.

Vinyl  Atlantic 587022 (UK 1966)

Original US release as  Atlantic 1317 (1959) this press  is the first UK release, on orange/plum labels (black fan) attributed on the label as a 1966 pressing for Polydor. Usually this would have been released earlier on London label pressed by Decca, but for some reason  it postdates the distribution change by Atlantic to Polydor. Pressing plant not known. The Polydor Group matrix number style and appearance bears similarities to Phillips but omits the usual country code identifier and in this case it is located at 6 o’clock not  Phillips usual 10 o’clock position. It adopts A and B in place of 1F/ 2F side designation.

Sixties Atlantic plum/orange are reliable quality vinyl listening.


587022 runout

9 thoughts on “Ornette Coleman “Shape of Jazz to Come” (1959)

  1. I must correct my evaluation of the Rhino reissue I claim to be good below. In fact, on listening to it tonight it’s much much worse than my early 80s reissue of the same record.
    Amazing how bias can sway your judgement in the first intsance when you’ve dropped a few quid on a record. .
    And now listening to those Atlantic reissues I’ve owned for years and years they are pretty good.
    But I am currently listening to the very beautiful Soapsuds Soapsuds on Artists House.
    Will music produce anyone quite like again?
    I doubt it very much

  2. I just thought I’d update this as yesterday I ‘took a chance’ on a Rhino Records reissue of this record – 180grams blah blah – for £17. I have to say it’s very very nice and beats the socks of my Atlantic reissue. I don’t have a first pressing but I can’t imagine it sounds better and I’m sure it’s superior to this Polydor example. I did compare it to the sound from my vintage London mono pressing of Change of the Century and Haden’s bass sound is far superior while the horns are a little less sibilant and richer in texture. It shows that some reissues can be great value. Even the picture on the front seems more in focus.

      • You’re lucky to have hit upon a “good copy” of this LP. Other people were less lucky:
        By the way, how can you be sure that those recent vinyl re-issues are really “an all-analogue affair”, i.e. that no digital processing whatsoever was used all along the way from the original master to the vinyl you bought? I think this is a crucial aspect in the “analogue vs. digital“ controversy.

        • I can’t be sure but then again I have digitally remastered records that sound much better than the originals – in particular Alan Dell’s versions of Frank Sinatra’s Capitol records from the 80s/90s. So I’m not necessarily predisposed to think digital bad, analogue good – I just prefer records to CDs – if the record involved digital process then they did a good job.

          • To my knowledge, Alan Dell’s Sinatra edition was published in both CD and LP format. I just for the life of me don’t see why the music should sound any better on vinyl when the digital source is exactly the same. I love vinyl for quite a number of reasons. But, as you rightly stated, this is not a question of “analogue vs. digital“. What I really dislike about vinyl is the fact, for instance, that the centre hole hardly ever seems to be in the centre, resulting in “wow“ when it exceeds a certain limit. Attempts to solve this problem have remained futile, with the single exception of one very expensive turntable built about thirty years ago:

            So I sometimes ask myself: Why bother? We have CDs that reproduce the sound of the original master tapes. This is not always the last word, and I’m perfectly aware it involves a lot of other aspects, but basically that’s the way I see it.

  3. Ornette composed and published here his best theme: Lonely woman.
    It can be considered one of the few standard in Free Jazz.
    For me the best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s