Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz (1960) Atlantic


Track selection: (excerpt)


Don Cherry (pocket tp) Freddie Hubbard (tp) Eric Dolphy (bcl) Ornette Coleman (as) Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro (b) Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins (d)  NYC, December 21, 1960

For Stereophiles, the positioning is:

Left channel

  • Ornette Coleman
  • Don Cherry
  • Scott La Faro
  • Billy Higgins

 Right channel

  • Eric Dolphy
  • Freddie Hubbard
  • Charlie Haden
  • Ed Blackwell

(However this copy is mono)


Now I know there are people who will to complain I haven’t uploaded the full thirty-seven minutes of “Free Jazz”. Others will complain that the one minute sample here is a trifle long.I am not yet a fan of free jazz, but do believe you should never say never. I’ve been wrong about many things in the past, and no reason why this should be an exception (other than possibly the exception that proves the rule). Buying this record is an investment in future possibilities, not current tastes.All that remains is to don an invisible black beret and stroke an imaginary goatee, a trainee-Bohemian.

Now Beboppers, time to pass around the pipe of peace with the Jazz Bohemians ( just tobacco in mine, thanks.)

Vinyl: Atlantic 1364 US 1st release, plum/orange labels, mono.

The runout etchings offer a letter “W”, which initially I thought to be “LW” (Longwear Plating Company) but on closer examination it is a lone W, which is associated with the pressing plant  HV Waddell, Burbank CA. Close to it a symbol I have seen on several occasions, made up of a cross with a V base and a circle top, like a mystic cult symbol from Black Sabbath, no idea who it indicates.

Free Jazz Runout M number

My initial mistake is that the copy is mono. As a rule I prefer mono, however the essence of the Double Quartet performance is that one quartet sits in the left channel and the other the right. Or in my case, both sit on each other, in the middle. You may wonder why issue it in mono in the first place, and you may ask the question “How come you always find out about these things after you have bought it and not before?” For some reason, the audiophile quality of the pressing seems less important with this style of music.

The cover is beautiful, and the adoption of  60’s drip-school oeuvre, in the form of Jackson Pollock’s “White Light” is a perfect metaphor for the symmetry between abstract music and abstract art. However I still like music to deploy rhythm, melody and harmony though not necessarily narrative – song.




A giveaway that distinguishes most reissue from the original, the Atlantic gatefold has a cut-out window, to display part of the Jackson Pollock painting inside. The mechanics of recreating the windowed cover construction is often skipped over by  reissues I have seen, which simply incorporate a picture in the front cover.



Collector’s Corner – Update June 5, 2014

How time change. All photos updated to current working standard – true to life colour, tone, sharpness, natural paper-white background with drop shadow, runout detail and etchings as found around the label.



9 thoughts on “Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz (1960) Atlantic

  1. “Atlantic 1364 UK 1st release, plum/orange labels, mono”?
    No, Sir, this is the original U.S. mono pressing. Even better.


    • I know that, I know that. Well, I do now. No idea what I was thinking at the time, this is obviously the US pressing.

      My images in the early days were pretty poor too, burned out highlights, no runout etching detail in situ, questionable colour fidelity, so I have taken the opportunity of updating everything to my current standard. Looks better, I think.

      The etchings include a strange “shepherds crook” -type mystic cult symbol – a “V” bass, cross with a circle top. I’ve seen it several times before but no idea who it signifies. Anyone recognising it, speak up!


  2. when a serious listener enters Free Jazz, the impact is hard.
    on one side you have info about certain musicians who made the story of Jazz in the sixties. you know, or have read, they are important.
    on the other side you loose all melodic and harmonic patterns you usually had before and you are not accustomed to this “new” wave of expression.
    this is a titanic war to understand something that’s not easy at all.
    sometimes it will become listenable and satisfying, sometimes not, according to your taste, level of knowing, desire to understand.
    remember that American public, critics and listeners, refused Free.
    but the musicians didn’t give up: many came to Europe where they were understood and could make a living.
    Free Jazz season was short, a decade, not more.
    when I met what someone called the “New Thing”, I fell in love at once.
    why? because I wasn’t a serious listener, as I was young and my ears were virgin.
    I had no barriers as melody and harmony: I didn’t know BeBop, Hard Bop, Cool, California and so on.my first encounter with Jazz was Free.
    from this first step I went back with my interest to 50’s and 40’s.
    I can say I love ’em all with the same passion.
    I’ll never prefer Coleman to Parker or Cannonball: I like and have a real pleasure with all musicians who have something interesting for my love of music.


  3. ah, wanna trade 37 minutes of mono cacophony with me?
    I’ve got the stereo version, which I’m not gonna sell, but would like to have mono too.
    if you won’t fall in love with this masterpiece, I’ll get it from you.


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