The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet - Free Jazz (1961), 7/10

Ornette Coleman provided an extremely important foundational recording for jazz music at the start of what is perhaps the most important decade in music, making it one of the most essential records of all time. The exhaustive experiment of free improvisation consists of two quartets, a double quartet with both sections comprised of trumpet, bass, drums, and alto saxophone or bass clarinet respective to Coleman and Dolphy. The first half of the album sounds familiar in quality to The Shape of Jazz to Come despite its wall of unpredictable sound, while the second half becomes an entirely new world of sound. The freeform aspect of the album creates many moments of pleasurable dissonance and even more interestingly anxious consonance, flipping expectations of feeling. The feature of Jackson Pollock’s The White Light may seem like a pretentious nod to abstraction, but Coleman’s tribute to the artist comes from a shared artistry that extends through his own work as a painter and his clearly intertwined ambitions with Free Jazz. The album’s historical significance is hard to overstate as it birthed some of the most interesting, important, and ingenious works in music. Still, the experiment is not fully realized to its potential in some moments, making it a less than perfect recording that exhibits potential in free improvisation rather than a faultless example of its form. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the recording in the double quartet, however, is rarely reproduced and makes for an exceptionally inspiring and timeless album experience. The consistent marching band sound is part of what holds back part one from reaching the heights of part two, while part two excels in its expansion of both this marching band sound and the investigation of space in the context of free jazz. In a very quick synopsis of the listening experience, the first half becomes tiresome before its end, while part two recaptures interest and attention before again subverting expectations entirely and supplanting hypnosis with more dynamic expressions. Regardless of its arguably less than perfect execution, Free Jazz is one of the most interesting and crucial albums of the sixties and beyond in terms of musical evolution and development, both within and beyond the confines of jazz music.