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10. Improvisations
Eric Dolphy (1928-1964)
"was a complete musician. He could fit anywhere. He was a fine lead alto in a big band. He
could make it in a classical group. And, of course, he was entirely his own man when he
soloed.... He had mastered jazz. And he had mastered all the instruments he played. In
fact, he knew more than was supposed to be possible to do on them" Charles Mingus, Last
Date liner notes; Limelight.
Iron Man (1963)
— Burning Spear
— Come Sunday
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959)
— Eventually
— Lonely Woman
—In the Harmolodic world the concept of space and time are not past or future but the
—My music doesn’t have any real time, no metric time. It has time, but not in the sense that
you can time it. It’s more like breathing – a natural, freer time. People have forgotten how
beautiful it is to be natural. Even in love.
—[Musicians] have more room to express themselves with me…They should be free to play
things as they feel it, the way it’s comfortable for them to play it. You can use any note and
rhythm pattern that makes good sense for you. You just hear it – like beautiful thoughts –
you don’t listen to people telling you how to play.
—Music has no face. Whatever gives oxygen its power, music is cut from the same cloth.
—It was when I realized I could make mistakes that I decided I was really on to something.
excerpts from The Harmolodic Manifesto, Ornette Coleman.
Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008) / Paul Bley (1932-2016) / Steve Swallow
Free Fall (1962)
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— Threewe
“[Free Fall] was such radical music, no one, literally no one, was ready for it and the group
disbanded shortly thereafter on a night when they made only 35 cents apiece for a set.”
Thom Jurek, AllMusic.
“A lot of people hated it,” Mrs. Giuffre explains. “As a matter of fact when we got to Europe
some of the more traditional audiences were quite unhappy with some of the newer music,
specifically France. If you were going to get an audience it would have been in Europe.
Eventually, people in Europe really cared for what he was doing much more, and still write
him and keep in touch. So, he got a lot of tours out of Europe with the avant-garde thing.
They were much more receptive, but every now and then you’d run into an audience who
expected to hear “Train and a River,” or “Four Brothers,” and the people who came to hear
that part of his life, or that part of his music, would be very disappointed. But Europe was
far more accepting than this country. As a matter of fact some jazz musician... I was
listening to the radio station one night. Jimmy had just put out Free Fall right about that
time, and he called it ‘non-music.’ I was rather surprised they were actually putting it down
in very definite ways. Jimmy was a visionary. — Rex Butters. Jimmy Giuffre: Cry Freedom.
All About Jazz. Nov 30, 2003.
“While very distinct stylistically, Giuffre and Coltrane’s legacies tend to merge from a
twenty-first Century vantage point. The idea of fusion is more present than ever in today’s
music, thanks to their visions. One would be hard pressed to find the exceptions to the
concept of chamber jazz that does not includes aesthetic elements borrowed from either of
these masters.” François Houle, Point of Departure 18 Roundtable.
“Originally, Giuffre wanted to be a composer in the European sense of the word. He
appreciated Bartok, Hindemith, Schostakovitch and the Second Viennese School with
Schönberg, Berg and Webern. He went for being an Avant-Garde composer who produces
"Crazy sounds,“ etc. But then he recognized that this had not so much to do with his character and discovered "Coolness“ was an appropriate medium for him.” ibid.
Conversations with a Goose (1996)
— Cobra
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Prophecy (1964)
Bells (1964)
“Trane was the father. Pharoah was the son. I was the holy ghost.”
“We are the music we play. And our commitment is to peace, to understanding of life. And
we keep trying to purify our music, to purify ourselves, so that we can move ourselves—
and those who hear us—to higher levels of peace and understanding. You have to purify
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and crystallize your sound in order to hypnotize. I’m convinced, you see, that through
music, life can be given more meaning. And every kind of music has an influence—either
direct or indirect—on the world around it so that after a while the sounds of different types
of music go around and bring about psychological changes. And we’re trying to bring
about peace. In his way, for example, that’s what Coltrane, too, is trying to do.”
I asked the brothers how they would advise people to listen to their music.
“One way not to,” Don said, “is to focus on the notes and stuff like that. Instead, try to
move your imagination toward the sound. It’s a matter of following the sound.”
“You have to relate sound to sound inside the music,” Albert said. “I mean you have to
try to listen to everything together.”
“Follow the sound,” Don repeated, “the pitches, the colors. You have to watch them
“This music is good for the mind,” Albert continued. “It frees the mind. If you just listen,
you find out more about yourself.
“It’s really free, spiritual music, not just free music. And as for playing it, other musicians
worry about what they’re playing. But we’re listening to each other. Many of the others are
not playing together, and so they produce noise. It’s screaming, it’s neo-avant-garde music.
But we are trying to rejuvenate that old New Orleans feeling that music can be played
collectively and with free form. Each person finds his own form.
Interview with Nat Hentoff, Downbeat Magazine, 11/17/1966
Cecil Taylor (*1929)
“Playing with Taylor I began to be liberated from thinking about chords. I'd been imitating
John Coltrane unsuccessfully and because of that I was really chord conscious.”
— Archie Shepp, album liner notes for Four for Trane (Impulse A-71, 1964).
“I never understood how musicians could play music for poets and not read poems. I don't
understand musicians who can play for dancers and not know how to dance… Well, you
know, I think Western musicians, fine art musicians, what they call fine art musicians-European fine art--they're the only ones who don't dance….What they don't understand is
when you--when you are playing, whether you know it or not, you're dancing. I always got
great enjoyment watching great musicians dance when they play. I mean, to watch Elvin
Jones or Art Blakey. Horace Silver, Ellington had a way--and Billie Holiday--those
movements. Or Betty Carter.” Interview with Chris Funkhouser in Hambone, No. 12.
Garden 1 (1982)
After All (Fifth Movement) (1974)
Pemmican (1982)
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Carla Bley (*1936)
Escalator Over the Hill (1968-1971)
In the eclectic 21st century, the idea of an opera drawing on sources as diverse as jazz,
rock and country music, Indian classical forms, hipster poetry and bursts of blistering freeimprov doesn't sound that fanciful a notion. But back in 1970, it was unimaginable – until
Carla Bley, the majestically eccentric pianist and composer, conjured up a gargantuan,
avant-cinematic, cross-genre venture called Escalator Over the Hill, in the face of record
company indifference and no financial support.
Next class:
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Anthony Braxton
Instant Composers Pool
Derek Bailey
Musica Elettronica Viva
Peter Brötzmann
Joe McPhee
Matthew Shipp
Vijay Iyer