Archive performances and interviews explore the influence of the four major jazz albums made in 1959 by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman.
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In 1959, four major jazz albums were made that changed music forever.
Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue.
Dave Brubeck's Time Out.
Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um.
And Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come.
1959 was a very important jazz year for me in my own development,
and the evolution of jazz up until now and beyond.
It was the year that saw the biggest selling jazz album, and single, of all time.
Time Out was going where I envisioned jazz should go.
I said, "Boy, this is fine. This is gonna work."
Jazz was pushed to new heights of innovation, beauty, and groove.
You know, the things would swing. He'd lift you right out of your seat.
It was the end of the Eisenhower era, 2.5 children,
and the white picket fence, in 1959 jazz is reaching white America in a big way.
# Why are they so sick and ridiculous?
# Two four six eight! They brainwash and teach you hate... #
Jazz musicians didn't really, like, join the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement joined them.
And with Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come, 1959 saw the birth of a whole new free jazz movement.
When you talk about somebody speaking through their instrument,
like actually hear it as a human, that's Ornette.
He changed everything.
1959 was a phenomenon. It was on another level, that's all you can say.
'The machine's on. Miles, where you gonna work now?
'OK, cos if you move back, we don't get you.
'When I play I'm gonna raise my horn a little bit.
'OK, just you four guys on this, right, Miles?
Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue, is the biggest selling jazz album ever made.
Shifting over five million copies.
It regularly tops best jazz album polls,
as well as featuring high in lists of the greatest albums of any category.
Kind of Blue continues to convert more people to jazz than any other recording.
All this 50 years after it was released.
-Let's hear a little bit of it.
When they walked into the studio, they did not see this as their ultimate statement.
They did not see this as the birth of a classic.
It was a session that was scheduled for that day.
'At the cannonball, you play again and we'll come in and end it.'
They go over by the piano and he's giving them instructions
about the tunes they're gonna play, you know.
So there wasn't a whole lot of music, I didn't have any music.
You know, just a piece of manuscript paper with some chords scribbled on it.
Miles tells me, uh, "Make this sound like it's floating."
'Here we go. No title.'
'Start again, please. Sorry, we gotta watch it because there's noises all the way through, this is so quiet.'
First time I did it, engineer said, "The drums are makin' like a surface noise,"
Miles hollered back it him, says, "That's part of it!"
-'That goes with it.
-All that goes with it.
Amazingly, Miles and his band spent a total of just seven hours recording Kind Of Blue.
All but one of the tracks are first takes.
Any time they completed a tune, that's what they were gonna stick with.
You know, it really is propelled by the idea that first thought is best thought.
Try it again, Irvine.
We would be hard pressed to find any album opener that could compare to the opening of So What.
This misty, unclear idea of where is the music going, where are we?
The intro from So What was totally improvised.
Had no time reference, no beat yet.
It's the piano and the bass sort of having this little conversation,
and out of this musical cloud comes the riff.
The grand riff, the one that says, "So what?"
Baum ba do ba do baum...
And then just when the energy is sort of getting to the point where it needs to be kicked up a notch,
Jimmy Cobb comes in with this incredible cymbal crash.
When we got to the place where the solos were supposed to start,
I hit the cymbal, and I thought I had over-played it for the room,
-I thought I had hit it too hard.
-But bang. It hits.
You know, you can't plan on stuff like that happening.
Miles' solo kicks off. So simple.
Almost like a whispered confession.
You know, by someone very intimate to you.
When Miles did Kind Of Blue, it opened up a whole new direction in jazz.
More introspective, a new way of thinking about the creation of jazz
and the creation of jazz compositions.
Part of Kind Of Blue's enormous influence on music is the legacy of the band members.
Many of them went on to become leaders in their own right, like saxophone virtuoso,
But Kind Of Blue is defined by Miles' incredibly hip trumpet sound.
He had this sound that was kind of like, um...
haunting kind of voice.
It was really individual. Very unique, very special.
The way he plays sometimes, it makes you feel life so deeply,
that you could almost cry, you know?
And it didn't really sound like a trumpet any more.
Miles' trumpet technique on Kind Of Blue was something he'd painstakingly developed
since he first hit the scene in the late 1940s.
Back then, the music had been changing.
In the 1940s, if you were a player, if you were an instrumentalist
who was really starting to make the move, be-bop was the music.
Be-bop was a fast and frenetic style of jazz.
It reflected jazz musicians' desire to be accepted as virtuoso artists, masters of their instruments.
Be-bop's greatest exponent was Charlie Parker.
Miles Davis is a very precocious, musical youngster.
What he really wants to learn is be-bop, and where he's gonna learn it is on 52nd Street,
up at Minton's, up in Harlem, playing with the be-bop leader of that time, Charlie Parker.
Aged only 18, Miles became a member of Charlie Parker's band.
As Miles traded solos with his hero, he was learning about be-bop from the source.
Miles is not gonna be a side band for long.
Miles, like many other musicians of that day were trying to deal with the language of be-bop.
"Where do we take be-bop?"
Miles said, "The music has become cluttered."
Part of his genius as a musician was that he edited what he heard Charlie Parker play.
So if Charlie, for instance, used ten notes
to make a certain kind of statement,
Miles Davis might figure out how to use three.
Miles used what they call the harmonic bomb, you hit this note that nobody expects you to hit,
and it has a great weight of power than just running up through the notes another kind of a way.
There's a connection, a connective between these four artists.
Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman,
in that they're all dealing with be-bop. The continuation of be-bop.
Where do we take this language, what do we do with it?
Another direction jazz took in 1959 was the rhythmic experimentation of pianist Dave Brubeck's Time Out.
A highly unusual record, each track is in a different tempo and time signature.
The single Take Five is in 5/4 time, and built around a drum solo.
Yet it rose up the pop charts, becoming the best selling jazz 45 ever released.
Brubeck had spent years building the line-up of his quartet that would go on to record Time Out.
I put together gradually this dream group,
cos some bass players and some drummers
didn't wanna play in different time signatures,
didn't wanna follow where it went.
But Take Five drummer Joe Morello was originally unhappy
coming into a band dominated by Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond.
On the marquis, on any kind of sign, it was,
"The Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Paul Desmond",
and the other guys were nothing, you could have been zilch.
I said, "Joe, I'll feature you," so the first night he joined, I gave him a drum solo.
I did the drum solo and the place went wild and people just stood up and clapped and all this nonsense.
Paul Desmond, it's the end of the song, he just walks off the stand and runs in the dressing room.
And Paul said, "Either he goes, or I go,"
and I said, "Paul, he's not going."
Which was a shock you know. Because he was the star in the group, not Dave, it was Paul.
Well, he felt that way, anyway!
He never talked to be for about five months.
OK, now we gotta work on the ending.
Did I play too many things for you?
I sat in the crossfire between these two wonderful players,
keeping everything going.
Giving in or not giving in.
That quartet just started making real headway.
By the time they signed to Columbia Records in the mid-'50s,
the Dave Brubeck quartet were one of America's top jazz bands.
His music was easily accessible to the average person,
it was not too complicated.
And the group was quite appealing because here you had
four all-American young boys to watch as well as to listen to.
Dave was quite easy to sell to middle-America because he LOOKED like middle-America,
he talked like middle-America. He was a nice guy that you were glad your daughter was going out with.
As Brubeck's success widened, parts of the jazz community accused him of being not only a sell-out,
but effectively a racist who diluted black music for mass consumption.
Jazz came out of black America. Later of course, white America catches up, it always does.
But there definitely was a resentment amongst black musicians regarding Dave Brubeck.
In the '50s, the people who got successful from cool jazz were primarily white musicians.
He had broken in to another audience that nobody really had.
That's when people started gettin' mad at him.
The thing about Dave, it's kind of strange for a guy who is light-years away from a racist, right,
who is light-years away from a commercial guy...
who doesn't make recordings with any intention of pandering to the public, but the public likes HIM!
Brubeck himself was more concerned with fine-tuning the rhythm section of his quartet,
and tackling his ideas about where jazz should be headed.
And then Eugene Wright joined us
and finally I had this dream group.
But the addition of bassist Eugene Wright didn't pass unnoticed
when they toured universities in the southern states of America.
We were playing in a university and they said, "You can't go on stage with an African-American."
I said, "Well, we're not going on stage."
And then the students were stamping on the floor up above the dressing room,
and the louder and wilder it got,
the more concerned the president of the college was getting.
So he told me,
"You can go on, but you have to put your bass player way in the back
"where he won't be too noticeable."
When we walked on stage, the audience just went wild, they were so happy.
The second tune, I told Eugene,
"Your microphone's broke, come out here and play your solo
"and use my speaker's mic, in front of the band."
Gene didn't know how I was plotting all this.
He came out and we tore that place up.
Oh, it was so wonderful.
The classic line-up of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that would go on to record Time Out, was now in place.
Bass player and composer, Charles Mingus,
saw the question of how to take jazz forward in a different way.
Mingus had risen throught the ranks, playing in the bands of jazz legends
like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
But for the notoriously opinionated and hot-tempered Mingus,
jazz wasn't a calendar history of styles,
so much as an ever-present "now".
Charles Mingus had a very strong sense that there was no past,
there was no present, there was no future.
All of the time was alive at the same moment.
He was a great, great thinker about music.
He didn't buy anything about that, you know,
a style lasted from 1920 to 1930, Mingus didn't buy that.
His thing was that, if it was good then, it's good now.
He wanted the freedom to play in, to write in,
to encourage his musicians to know how to improvise in every style.
In 1959, Mingus recorded and released Mingus Ah Um.
It was one of four albums he made that year, not unusual in this prolific artist's long career.
But Mingus Ah Um was a tightly focused master work.
The title of the album sounds like a stutter,
while he's getting himself together to make his grand statement.
Ah Um? You know, what's that about?!
What's really, really devastating about Ah Um, is the consistency.
Tune by tune by tune.
I mean, it's Mingus at his best.
Mingus was diggin' deep into that roots thing
with that incredible opening track, Better Git It In Your Soul.
It's like a gospel choir. It's like a pentacostal performance on a Wednesday night prayer meeting.
But the incredible magic of it is not just the influences,
it's how Mingus works it all together and makes it into its own new thing.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, remember no applause and keep it down.
Don't rattle the ice in your glasses and don't ring the cash register.
You got it covered? All right.
He had these enormous hands, and that made it possible
for him to do certain things technically
that other bass players just couldn't do.
In fact, he was one of the greatest bassists in jazz,
well, he was one of the greatest players of the bass, period.
I can hear him now!
He was powerful, powerful.
You shut up when he played.
Charlie Mingus was a big man, with a big talent and a big temper.
And if people bugged him in the audience for some reason,
someone did, he got very angry, took his bass, and he smashed it through the light up there,
and broke it. The light's still there, the Mingus Light, that's what it's become.
He ripped the front door off once,
and some little gal, this big, dragged it home, as I recall!
They say a lot of musicians never played better in their life
than when they play with Mingus because he was SO demanding.
And he used everything, he used anger,
he used insults, he used flattery.
Whatever he could use. He would fire musicians and hire them back, you know, 20 minutes later.
Nothing was out of bounds.
He wanted you to understand his,
play his music and be yourself in it.
So often, on a nightclub stand he would stop and say to somebody,
"You're not playing yourself, you're playing notes."
I knew that Mingus was playing in this little club on West 4th Street,
and I went into the club, there was an argument on the bandstand, they weren't even playing,
and I heard Mingus yelling at somebody, and it turned out to be the piano player.
Mingus put his arm inside the piano,
and he grabbed the strings and pulled them out.
With one fist.
I said, "Man, it's time for me to get out of here."
I never seen anything like that in my life.
Well, I'm gonna shoot it.
People are always telling me stories I don't wanna hear,
about moments of Charles's volatility or things that took place,
and take place they did. And Charles created scenes,
he was called jazz's angry man,
and he had plenty to be angry about.
He had a lot to confront in those days
for a man of his sensitivity and his sensibility and his talent,
and unrecognised in many places,
merely because he had the wrong skin colour.
He wasn't dark enough and he wasn't light enough.
He called himself a mongrel, or a mutt.
Like many jazz artists, Mingus was an extraordinary player and improvisor,
but with Mingus Ah Um, he began to assume his position as one of jazz's greatest composers.
I love Self Portrait In Three Colours.
A little through composed piece without any solos,
just a little jam, beatiful, this multi-faceted, um, composition.
Charles once said that he was,
through his music, trying to express who he was.
And he said the reason it was difficult was because he was changing all the time.
But through his music you hear every...
You hear the fear, you hear the spirituality, the tenderness, the passion,
everything that he was comes out in his music.
In 1959, Ornette Coleman made his spectacular musical statement
in one quantum leap with the audaciously titled The Shape Of Jazz To Come.
But before he formed his quartet,
Coleman, based in Los Angeles,
had trouble finding anyone who was interested in his wildly unorthodox music.
Went over to this club by MacArthur Park on Wiltshire
and Gerry Mulligan was playing there.
They started their first set, and after they begin to play,
a guy came in and asked if he could sit in.
He got up on the band stand, and proceeded to take out his horn,
and the horn was white, it was plastic.
I'd never seen a plastic horn before.
When this gut started to play,
it was like the heavens opened up for me.
Because I saw, and I heard, something that I'd been feeling.
To me, they were playing as if the music was written,
like, when they was improvising, it sounded to me like, oh,
they've already learned that. You know?
So I said, I wanna play like that,
I wanna play directly from something that inspired me.
And they said, "What are you doing?" And I said, "I'm improvising."
They said, "You ain't playing shit.
"You can't play like that,"
I said, "Play like what?" "The way you playing."
And all of a sudden, Gerry Mulligan asked him to stop.
So, he stopped, and got off the band stand and went to the back door.
So I rushed through the crowd, trying to reach him,
and by the time I got to the back door, he'd disappeared down the alley. He was gone.
Blown away by Ornette's playing, Charlie Haden soon tracked him down.
I said, "I heard you play the other night, man. You sounded so brilliant."
He said, "Thank you, not many people tell me that."
I said, "Man, I just wish that we could play music together sometime."
And he said, "Well, what about now?"
And so we went to his apartment.
That's how I met him. And we played, and played and played.
We maybe stayed in there three or four days, I don't know.
So, that's when the quartet started.
They're a bunch of young players, players who are just starting to break out,
and whose minds and approaches are still flexible enough that Ornette can work with them.
I never worried about chords, melodies or keys. Only sound.
And the thing about it, there's only 12 notes that satisfy in the whole world.
12 notes that satisfy in the whole world.
And I said, "Oh, man." And then I realised that this note don't have a style.
Either you make something out of it, or you don't.
Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come
didn't initially make the bold impression it has done in the years since 1959.
At first I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't know which pocket to put it in.
Because I hadn't heard anything quite like that.
It was a new, far-out approach.
The Shape Of Jazz To Come is definitely an audacious title, you know?
It's putting yourself out there and saying, you know, this is where jazz is going.
Lonely Woman has been a favourite song of mine,
and Willner, ever since I heard it when it first came out.
It was one of the greatest compositions ever.
I mean, combined with the way his quartet and Ornette played it,
everything music could be.
And not a day goes by when I'm not humming that.
HE HUMS "LONELY WOMAN"
It's not your standard jazz thing where this guy solos and this one solos and this one solos,
this is a real composition,
that brings all of them together, and they're all such staggeringly great players.
Born from oppression, jazz is, at its heart, political,
and throughout his career,
Charles Mingus often integrated his political beliefs with his music.
Charles used his band stand as a soap box at all times.
He spoke out about his beliefs, about racism,
about the iniquities in society and the record industry.
Whatever was on his mind, he expressed.
The most timely, and influencial track on Mingus Ah Um,
Fables Of Faubus, was no exception.
The track spoke of events that took place after the outlawing of segregation,
two years earlier, in 1957.
'President Eisenhower, signing the Civil Rights Bill.
'It was Monday morning, ten past eight. Kids going to school all over the country as the President signs.
'And in Little Rock at ten past eight,
'Arkansas National Guardsmen, under orders of Governor Faubus, challenging the law of the land,
'preventing nine negro youngsters from attending the Central High School in Little Rock.'
There was an attempt to intergrate a high school
in Little Rock, Arkansas,
according to the law, according to the Supreme Court Of The United States.
Governor Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas,
would not allow integration.
CROWD CHANT: Two, four, six, eight! We don't want to integrate!
Two, four, six, eight! We don't want to integrate!
Mingus was outraged by what he saw happening to people.
And the irony of The Fables Of Faubus, is that it's kind of a comic tune.
It has a theatrical quality, you know,
you're expecting this character that's going to be...
um, well, not very fit for public display.
And that's certainly the way he felt about this white supremacist governor of Arkansas.
'Then came the Eisenhower-Faubus meeting.
'Finally, Faubus withdrew the guardsmen
'and the negroes entered the hitherto forbidden white school.
'A riot started.
'Confronted with what he called anarchy,
'the President ordered United States soldiers into Little Rock.
'The regular army troops, para troops, escorted the negro children to and from school,
'gave them full protection from the threatening crowds.'
Charles wrote some smokin' lyrics about this,
and Columbia Records would not let Charles include these political words on the album.
"Tell me someone who's ridiculous," and then his drummer would respond, "Governor Faubus,"
and Charles would say, "Why is he so sick and ridiculous?"
And Danny would say, "Two, four, six, eight, brainwash and teach you hate."
# Oh, Lord! No more Klu Klux Klan!
# Name someone who's ridiculous, Danny
# Governor Faubus!
# Oh why are they so sick And ridiculous?
# Two, four, six, eight, They brainwash and teach you hate. #
Fables Of Faubus, even without the lyric, just the fact that he's using the name Faubus,
is gonna have a very strong message
to many of the people who were listening to that album in 1959.
Fables Of Faubus opened up a lot of the pent-up feelings
we all had as African-American musicians
against racism in America.
Kind of, set the stage for each of our own individual expression of that opposition to racism.
BARACK OBAMA'S VOICE: Three words - yes, we can.
Barack Obama may not know it,
but jazz was one of the reaons he was elected president.
and Charles Mingus, and all of these musicians,
they helped to create the atmosphere that led to people
respecting a person beyond the distinctions of colour.
In the years leading up to Kind Of Blue,
Miles Davis had begun to make an impact with his own defiant demands for respect,
both as a black man, and as an artist.
I remember seeing him in Los Angeles, at the club.
People who turned up were gamblers,
pimps, drug dealers,
Bragging about who got the most hos and who got the prettiest hos,
and your hos should be picked up by the dog catcher,
and just all that kind of stuff.
Now, when Miles Davis came on the bandstand, though, they shut up.
They didn't make any noise after he came out there.
See, I'd never seen that before,
because these are not the kind of people you can just shut up.
They knew if they got loud and irritated him,
he would turn round and leave and that would be it. He wouldn't come back.
Nobody was gonna entreat him. "Oh, Miles, but you won't get paid!"
"I'm not broke."
He always made his point that when I come in here,
I have some kind of artistic goals I'm trying to accomplish
and they do not include you talking while we're playing.
Miles struck me as somebody who would sell a lot of records
because his cool, almost disdainful, demeanour on stage
worked absolutely in his favour to become a talked-about artist.
Columbia had a very powerful publicity department.
They realised what we have to do is we have to create this image
of the distant, remote jazz musician who's not available to everybody.
We're gonna sell them that!
And of course being remote and unavailable just made everyone dig Miles all the more.
Miles was not just a musical pioneer,
he was a pioneer as far as American culture in general.
He was an important black figure who made it within this American system.
He's reaching white America in a big way.
Freddie Hubbard said, when he was in the Village Vanguard,
he noticed this repeatedly, that when Miles David would play a ballad
and put the Harmon mute in the bell of the horn and play in the lower register,
he said every woman's legs in the club opened.
And he said first time he thought he was hallucinating, that it was not really happening.
He said that he'd look and they all... They didn't even know they were doing it.
He said they would all just open up.
He was a dude, man! A dude! But beautiful.
So sexy, if you really want to know the truth!
He's got a very elegant, low-key sound.
Women liked him a lot, look at all the wives he had!
While 1959 saw America beginning to find its groove...
..beneath the shiny surface lay deep fears brought about by the Cold War with Russia.
As part of a programme of cultural detente,
the American government asked Dave Brubeck to take jazz and its American values to the East.
Our government wanted to impress people
that were right on the border of Russia about our culture.
President Eisenhower wanted us to go along the perimeter of Russia
and we opened in Poland and then went to Turkey, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq.
We were gonna represent our country and we talked about how difficult it is
to go and be the voice of freedom when you don't really have freedom yet,
because of the old unwritten laws of segregation.
A great thing jazz has done for our country
and here we're being sent out to do it for the world.
The tour was to begin in Poland,
but this meant travelling through East Germany.
East Berlin was not recognised by the United States.
so they assigned a woman
that for some reason could go through the Brandenburg Gate.
The whole scene was like a spy movie.
She told me to get in the trunk of her car.
I said I won't get in the trunk of her car,
I'll get in the back seat and if I get questioned, I'm gonna tell them the truth.
But she got through.
She brought us to a police station...
..and this man walked into the room and said, "You are Mr Coolu,"
and I said, "No, I'm Mr Brubeck."
And he said, "No, you're Coolu."
Then he pulled out a Polish paper with a picture of me
and the caption said Mr Coolu and I realised I was Mr Cool
and that was my name.
Many of the ideas that we developed for Time Out
came from touring in these countries.
Like Blue Rondo A La Turk,
-that's a Turkish folk beat.
-HE TAPS AND SINGS THE RHYTHM
HE PLAYS THE PIANO
And then it goes into a blues.
Brubeck returned to the US with a complete vision
of the time signature experiments for Time Out.
For his album of cool rhythmic innovation,
Brubeck decided that drummer Joe Morello was to be given a showcase.
I heard Joe playing this beat backstage...
HE TAPS THE BEAT
..and I said, well, I have something in 5/4.
One, two, three, four, five...
5/4, that's right up my alley, man, you know?
It's just spontaneous. I was looking for more colours, you know, different textures of sound.
I said, "Boy, this is fine. This is gonna work."
Time Out was going where I envisioned Jazz should go.
Jazz history had been written in 4/4 time
and you get Dave Brubeck doing a whole album with the idea of using different time signatures.
Columbia told me, "All these crazy time signatures, that'll never sell."
But the disc jockeys started playing us. We had a big hit.
The idea that jazz could actually make it on to pop radio in America in the late '50s -
that was totally unheard of.
What really works well with Time Out is that it provides
an easy introduction for mainstream America to deal with new musical ideas.
Towards the end of 1959, the Ornette Coleman Quartet came to New York for the very first time,
with the prophetically titled The Shape of Jazz To Come.
They were all but unknown,
but those who were hip to the scene were there to check out the band's New York debut at the Five Spot.
We couldn't wait. We went down to the Five Spot
and had a rehearsal one afternoon and then we opened up.
There were lines around the block, the place was packed with people, so it was quite a deal.
Opening night, they had everybody, everybody was there.
So he was, he was kind of on auditory trial so to speak.
We couldn't wait to get to work and play because the music was so great and new and fresh.
And that's when The Shape of Jazz to Come is dropped on the New York jazz scene.
That first night of Ornette's was a "socko!" impact,
and unforgettable. Unforgettable.
I don't think I ever heard four musicians who gave me the impression of surrounding me,
I was in the middle of it. Bang.
'We all know the atomic bomb is very dangerous. We must get ready for it
'Duck and cover! Attaboy, Tony, act fast!'
Coleman spoke the paranoia that existed in the nuclear age.
The reaction that many people had just to this idea that the entire world could be blown up.
To play music with this urgency, this desperate urgency to make something that's never been before,
as if you're on the frontline and you're risking your life for every note you play.
I was there the opening night and I was really unprepared for the hostility!
I was sitting next to Roy Eldridge, and Roy was a warm generous guy,
and he was listening to Ornette and he said "He's just jiving, man, that's not music!"
People will say it was random, it was chaotic, it was this and that.
There were people who became angry at the music and let it be known that they hated it.
'In New York, everything was under suspicion,
'and I didn't know about being under suspicion,'
I just thought about picking up my horn
and activating the idea that's going through my nervous system.
This guy had extreme nerve. The things that Ornette would play, even today,
you actually can not believe that he played some of them. Just the sheer audacity of it.
In New York, Ornette Coleman playing his white plastic sax was considered pretty out there too.
It looked kind of funny because people said,
"What happened to the candy that was inside it when you bought it?"
He got a great sound out of this instrument. You wouldn't think it was plastic. I'd say,
"Oh my God I hope this horn don't melt, this cat's playin'." It was heavy stuff, you know?
It's hard to understand a negative reaction to that.
Something so fabulous. I mean, what would people object to in it? I can't even imagine it.
He changed everything. He changed everything.
The whole approach, the way of looking at it, the style of it, the sound.
He influenced people that don't even know he influenced them. Like, think they hated the music,
you know. It gets into you, you can't help it. Maybe that's what upset them so much.
I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody,
I want to be as human as I can get. Believe me.
And I know there's nothing I'm trying to hide,
there's nothing I'm trying to climb above,
there's nothing I'm trying to destroy.
No one is going to suffer from what the human race does,
because it's not going to destroy itself.
It's gonna improve itself.
Music is something that, to me,
is nothing but the sound of your emotions.
It's your heart, it's your feelings,
it's your belief, it's your ability, and, most of all, it's your love.
And what's so beautiful about it is that it's not destructive.
It's always something that gets better.
1959 was a really important year in jazz,
because you had some of the greatest musicians in the world playing
a response to what had been played, but was also a response to what COULD be played.
The art was advanced in 1959, another set of choices were provided for everybody.
Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue,
has become jazz's best selling album,
hugely influential from its 1959 release right up until today.
Kind Of Blue difinitely changed music, it just kind of opened up
the horizon for jazz expression.
Miles would go on to influence the course of jazz many more times.
Dave Brubeck still continues to follow his own groove
and Time Out remains a high point of jazz innovation.
With Time Out, it finally happened the way we all dreamt of it.
It stood the test of time, this one
Charles Mingus, a political as well as musical force,
is now recognised as being amongst the 20th century's most important composers.
Mingus Ah Um remains a prime work by the unpredictable genius.
He was sharing his emotions about life.
The message he always said to his side-men was "Play yourself",
and you could extend that to all of us, "Play yourself, be who you are."
But the record that has most changed jazz this last half-century
is Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come.
It came out of nowhere and fired a starting gun on new forms of music.
The LP still sounds radical.
He's divisive even to this day. Being divisive is a defining element almost to Ornette Coleman's music.
The legacy of The Shape of Jazz to Come will be to create no boundaries,
to play new music as much as you can, not to be satisfied with the status quo.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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1959 was the seismic year jazz broke away from complex bebop music to new forms, allowing soloists unprecedented freedom to explore and express. It was also a pivotal year for America: the nation was finding its groove, enjoying undreamt-of freedom and wealth; social, racial and upheavals were just around the corner; and jazz was ahead of the curve.
Four major jazz albums were made, each a high watermark for the artists and a powerful reflection of the times. Each opened up dramatic new possibilities for jazz which continue to be felt: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue; Dave Brubeck, Time Out; Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um; and Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come.
Rarely seen archive performances help vibrantly bring the era to life and explore what made these albums vital both in 1959 and the 50 years since. The programme contains interviews with Lou Reed, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Joe Morello (Brubeck's drummer) and Jimmy Cobb (the only surviving member of Miles' band), along with a host of jazz movers and shakers from the 50s and beyond.