Jazz Music

Jazz Music: Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come


The Shape of Jazz to Come is the third album by jazz musician Ornette Coleman, released on Atlantic Records in 1959. It is his debut on the label, and his first album featuring his working quartet. The recording session for the album took place on May 22, 1959, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. Two outtakes from the session, “Monk and the Nun” and “Just for You,” would later be released respectively on the 1970s compilations Twins and The Art of the Improvisers. The Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry in 2012.

The album contains the one Coleman composition to achieve jazz standard status, “Lonely Woman.” Coleman’s group did not contain chord-playing instruments. Each selection contains a brief melody, much like the tune of a typical jazz song, then several minutes of free improvisation, followed by a repetition of the main theme. While this resembles the conventional head-solo-head structure of bebop, it abandons the use of chord structures. The album was a breakthrough and helped to establish the free jazz movement. Later avant-garde jazz was often very different from this, but the work helped to lay the foundation upon which much subsequent avant-garde and free jazz would be built.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 243 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album was identified by Chris Kelsey in his Allmusic essay “Free Jazz: A Subjective History” as one of the 20 Essential Free Jazz Albums.The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded the album its “crown” accolade, in addition to a perfect four star rating.


Ornette Coleman — alto saxophone
Don Cherry — cornet
Charlie Haden — bass
Billy Higgins — drums

[Inspired by Arne Herløv Petersen]

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