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date: 15 November 2019

Free jazz (jazz)locked

  • J. Bradford Robinson


A term first applied to the avant-garde jazz of the 1960s, particularly the work of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler, and the late work of John Coltrane. The name derives from the title of Coleman’s album Free Jazz (1960), an extended, free-form improvisation for two pianoless jazz quartets, which exercised an enormous influence on the jazz vanguard both in the USA and elsewhere. The music has also been described simply as “avant-garde” (see Avant-garde jazz), “the New Thing,” or “the New Wave” (referring to the contemporaneous “nouvelle vague” in French cinema); these terms emphasize its distance from the mainstream jazz movement. A further name, “action jazz,” was suggested by the jazz critic Don Heckman, who considered that the essential quality of the new music was its energy. In Europe (especially England) free jazz is also known simply as “improvised music,” particularly in performances which emphasize stylistic connections to avant-garde art music rather than to sounds of African-American origin....

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Journal of Musicology
Jazzforschung/Jazz Research
J. Gray: Fire Music: a Bibliography of the New Jazz, 1959-1990 (New York, 1991)