Monday, May 26, 2014

Ornette Coleman - "Lonely Woman"

By Richard K. Barry

Though used book stores are closing up everywhere, there are still a few out there. In one today, over lunch, I came across an interesting collection of essays on jazz: interviews, profiles, narratives, etc., by Martin Williams called Jazz Masters in Transition: 1957 to 1969.

I was not familiar with Mr. Williams though it is clear from his bio that he was quite the jazz critic and writer beginning in early 1950s with articles in The Saturday Review, The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, and Downbeat. He also founded The Jazz Review in 1958 with Nat Hentoff, a name anyone vaguely familiar with the history of jazz will know.

As well, from 1971 to 1981 Martin Williams headed the jazz and “American Culture Program” at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

So, we’ve established his bona fides.

I must admit, it was the back cover of the book that grabbed my attention:

The late Fifties and early Sixties were years of revolution in the history of jazz: bebop had become hard bop; hot jazz cooled; new rhythms, harmonies, textures, structures were transforming the music, revitalizing it, freeing it. Leading the revolution were a group of young players and composers: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Scott La Faro, Cecil Taylor, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus, and a 29-year old named Ornette Coleman who came out of the West with a handful of tunes, a toy saxophone, and a fresh improvisatory style that stunned critics and audiences in heard-it-all New York. “The New Thing,” as it was called, divided the jazz community so completely it was impossible to remain indifferent.

I look forward to a close reading of Mr. Williams book.

This is “Lonely Woman,” the opening track on Ornette Coleman’s 1959 Atlantic Records album The Shape of Things to Come.

(Cross-posted at Cultur-olio.)

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