Free jazz, or "the new thing," was the dominant form of avant garde jazz during the 1950's, 60's and 70's. As far
as most people are concerned, even jazz heads, free jazz is as obtuse and difficult to understand as it was when Ornette Coleman
and his group played their first high profile shows at the Five Spot in 1959. While post-WW2 be-bop had fueled intense debates
over whether bop was really jazz or not, free jazz gave rise to heated, even physically violent arguments over whether or
not the "new thing" was even music to begin with. Even after 44 years, there is no sound more far out than free
The Father of Free Jazz. Coleman was the first apostle of the new thing, and the man who took the greatest amount of abuse
from those who could not understand the musical or emotional context of his music.
"Coleman is the creator of a concept of music called "harmolodic," a musical form which is equally applicable
as a life philosophy. The richness of harmolodics derives from the unique interaction between the players. Breaking out of
the prison bars of rigid meters and conventional harmonic or structural expectations, harmolodic musicians improvise equally
together in what Coleman calls compositional improvisation, while always keeping deeply in tune with the flow, direction and
needs of their fellow players. In this process, harmony becomes melody becomes harmony. Ornette describes it as "Removing
the caste system from sound." On a broader level, harmolodics equates with the freedom to be as you please, as long as
you listen to others and work with them to develop your own individual harmony." (harmolodic.com)
Perhaps Ornette Coleman's most important acolyte during the 60's and early 70's, Albert Ayler "was the most primal of
the free jazz musicians of the 1960s. He possessed a deep blistering tone (achieved by using the stiffest plastic reeds he
could find on his tenor saxophone) and a broad, pathos-filled vibrato that came right out of church music. His trio and quartet
records of 1964, like Spiritual Unity and The Hilversum Sessions, show him advancing the improvisational notions of John Coltrane
and Ornette Coleman into abstract realms where timbre, not harmony and melody, are the music's backbone. His ecstatic music
of 1965 and 1966, like "Spirits Rejoice" and "Truth is Marching In" adopted the sound of a Salvation Army
brass band, and involved simple, march-like themes which alternated with wild group improvisations and took jazz back to its
pre-Louis Armstrong roots." (wikipedia.com)
Cecil Taylor is a classically trained, post-bop pianist who introduced elements of avant garde orchestral composition to
jazz in the mid 1950's, before becoming a law of his own later in that decade. Taylor's music is among the most structured
of the free jazz canon, but also the densest and, perhaps, most difficult for the average listener. One of the truely enigmatic
figures in twentieth century music, responible for one of most impenetrable bodies of work ever recorded.
"Great Black Music" was the slogan of the five free-jazz musicians who called themselves the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
From comedy to tragedy, they brought an unusually wide range of emotions to their often melodic, usually abstract music. Their
career together continued for more than three decades, making them one of the longest-lasting jazz groups." (Britannica
Sun Ra was the centuries-old heir to the throne of Saturn, who came to Earth to teach the human race enlightenment through
the celestrial music of his native planet. While this music, played by Sun Ra and his various "Arkestras" was strictly
composed and rehearsed rather than freely improvised (Ra was derisive of Ayler and the "Freedom Boys,") the peculiarity
of Ra's compostions made his records early touchstones for generations of free players.
New York attorney, Bernard Stollman founded Esperanto-Disk in 1963 as an educational tool to promote world peace through a
common language - the synthetic language, Esperanto. The label's first release, NI KANTU EN ESPERANTO ("Let's Sing in
Esperanto") was an entire LP of songs and readings in the "universal language."
By 1964, however, Stollman was moving the label towards a new role - documenting New York's avant-garde jazz and folk
With the July release of SPIRITUAL UNITY by the Albert Ayler Trio, ESP-Disk began quickly amassing an important free
jazz catalog. Such jazz innovators as Pharoah Sanders, Byron Allen and Bob James made their debuts on ESP, while such pivotal
figures as Patty Waters, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman released some of their most adventurous music on the label. By 1966, ESP-Disk
had established itself as the most important free jazz label of all.
"BYG Records was founded by Jacques Bisceglia, Jean-Luc
Young and Jean Georgakarakos in the late 60's. The now legendary status of BYG is mainly based on some fifty excellent
free jazz and experimental records by mostly American artists released under the Actuel-series.
As the 60's progressed towards the seventies the interest of major labels in free jazz started to fade away, creating
a need for a new output for many American artists and their music. As a result many leading musicians visited or moved entirely
to Europe, where it seemed that free jazz and jazz in general, were more appreciated than in the USA. Paris was often the
place of action for the ex-patriate free jazzers, where there was always demand for live performances and people running labels
willing to record your music for a release. BYG was one of these."
From Helsinkicityboi's article on Discogs.com (see link below.)