1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

1959. It was a pivotal year for jazz. Musicians started breaking away from bebop, exploring new, experimental forms. And four absolutely canonical LPs were recorded that year: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis; Time Out by Dave Brubeck; Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus; and The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. 1959 also found America on the cusp of great social and political upheaval. Integration, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis — they were all coming around the bend, and sometimes figures like Mingus and Coleman commented musically on these events.

This transformative period gets nicely covered by the recent BBC documentary, 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz. The outtake above focuses on Ornette Coleman and his innovative work as a free jazz musician. If it whets your appetite, you can dive into the full program on YouTube. The documentary featuring interviews with Brubeck, Coleman, Lou Reed, and Herbie Hancock is available runs roughly 60 minutes.

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  1. John Conolley says . . . | November 9, 2013 / 2:05 am

    Really interesting. I like hearing the stories about the musicians as people.

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