Free jazz is a genre of music that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s as an avant-garde movement within the jazz community. It is characterized by its improvisational nature, lack of traditional song structures, and a departure from the constraints of traditional jazz harmony and rhythm.
The origins of free jazz can be traced back to several key figures who sought to push the boundaries of jazz music. One such figure is Ornette Coleman, whose album "The Shape of Jazz to Come" released in 1959, is often considered a landmark in the development of free jazz. Coleman's approach involved discarding conventional chord progressions and encouraging musicians to improvise freely without predetermined harmonic structures.
Another influential figure in the genre's development was John Coltrane. His album "Ascension," released in 1966, showcased his exploration of extended improvisation and collective improvisation with a large ensemble. This album marked a significant shift towards more experimental forms within free jazz.
Key characteristics of free jazz include collective improvisation, where all members of an ensemble contribute equally to the musical dialogue without predefined roles or hierarchies. The use of unconventional techniques such as multiphonics (producing multiple notes simultaneously on wind instruments) and extended techniques (exploring non-traditional sounds on instruments) are also common features.
Over time, free jazz has evolved and incorporated influences from various other genres such as rock, funk, world music, and classical music. Artists like Albert Ayler expanded upon the energy and intensity found in earlier iterations of free jazz with albums like "Spiritual Unity" (1964). Ayler's work emphasized raw emotion and spirituality through his powerful saxophone playing.
In addition to Coleman, Coltrane, and Ayler, other notable artists associated with free jazz include Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and Peter Brötzmann.