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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Spir­i­tu­al Jazz: Hear a Tran­scen­dent 12-Hour Mix Fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock & More

John Coltrane’s Hand­writ­ten Out­line for His Mas­ter­piece A Love Supreme

Dis­cov­er the Church of St. John Coltrane, Found­ed on the Divine Music of A Love Supreme

Sun Ra’s Full Lec­ture & Read­ing List From His 1971 UC Berke­ley Course, “The Black Man in the Cos­mos”

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Comments (5)
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  • John Conolley says:

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

  • dario says:

    Won­der­ful video. It gives you a key to under­stand the dif­fer­ent ways of play­ing jazz.

  • Lola says:

    bomb diggity…so home­sick!!!

  • Jerry Washington says:

    I was born in 59. Spring­field Mass­a­chu­setts Ham­p­den Coun­ty in an inte­grat­ed world where racism was still at the edge of my civ­i­liza­tion. Now I’m retrace myself back­wards I want to know what was going on in 59 the kind of peo­ple that were and most of all how 59 became a pop­u­lar word or phrase and they bet­ter hap­pen­ing. So let’s cel­e­brate 59 cuz next year I’ll be 60

  • Robert says:

    Coltrane’s Giant Steps came out in 1959, too. It real­ly was a water­shed year.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.