Abstraction came late to jazz. New York's abstract expressionism art movement emerged in the late 1940s and flourished throughout the 1950s. By contrast, free jazz didn't coalesce until the late 1950s, though there were inklings of the style in the music of Lee Konitz in the late 1940s and early '50s. Not until alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and his sidemen did free jazz begin to become a jazz genre in 1959. While the music can be difficult for listeners accustomed to structure and familiar songs and scales to grasp, it is breathtaking once you calibrate your head and open your mind to a new set of rules and expression.
To help you along, here's a two-part documentary on free jazz and Ornette Coleman, who was born 88 years ago on March 9. He died in 2015:
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