Free Jazz – When Miles Davis Felt The “Plight of The Public”

Posted: October 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

Back in 1959, Texan alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman went to New York’s Five Spot venue armed with just a plastic saxophone and proceeded to wreak havoc with a radical new sound that rejected orthodox notions of melody, harmony, and structure – the supposed bedrocks of conventional western music. He called it free jazz, and even the normally insouciant Miles Davis was perturbed by it. As he wrote, in his customary pithy way, in his book, Miles: The Autobiography: “He just came and f__ke up everybody.” Some saw Coleman as a visionary – classica lconductor Leonard Bernstein proclaimed him a genius – while others, among them trumpeter Roy Eldridge, were less enthusiastic and thought the saxophonist was a charlatan. “I think he’s jiving, baby,” Eldridge said.

Back then, admitting that you were partial to free jazz came with a high price – depending on who was “outing” you, you could face ridicule, hostility and even the prospect of being ostracised. 

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