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Still "The New Thing" - Exploring and Celebrating Free Jazz

WRTI's J. Michael Harrison recently moderated a very special panel that explored music known as "The New Thing" - from the free jazz movement of the 1950s and 1960s, led by innovators such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra. 

Pianist Dave Burrell, saxophonist Bobby Zankel, writer Francis Davis, and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma convened at WRTI to discuss the life, legacy and importance of these three iconic artists who will be recognized and celebrated during the much-anticipated Still The New Thing! Festival at The Painted Bride Art Center on March 8th, 21st, and April 19th.

Although the music produced by free jazz composers varied widely, the common feature was their dissatisfaction with the limitations of earlier jazz styles, such as bebop and hard bop, that were built on a framework of song forms and fixed chord changes.  In free jazz, a fixed and pre-established form is eliminated, and the role of improvisation is increased, which allows artists to explore the connections between music and expansive concepts such as history, philosophy, existentialism, nature, and society.

Sometimes none of these elements are playing a central role in performance; the artist may simply be exploring sound or vibration, as a means of expression. In all cases, improvisation is central.

Interested? Check out the Still The New Thing! Festival It's a three-show collaboration paying homage to jazz legends Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra.  Scheduled to coincide with the artists' respective birthdays, these all-star evenings feature musicians who, over the last five decades, have had key professional and personal relationships with Cecil, Ornette, and Sun Ra. These special performances will celebrate the lives and work of these challenging, uncompromising composer-performers.

The concerts take place at the Painted Bride Art Center:
Celebrating Cecil - March 8
Celebrating Ornette - March 21
Still the New Thing! - April 19

Here are our picks of fabulous examples of The New Thing:

Ornette Coleman: The Shape of Jazz to Come; Something Else!; This is Our Music; Free Jazz; Change of the Century


Cecil Taylor: Unit Structures; Conquistador; Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come; Praxis; Student Studies

Sun Ra: The Heliocentric Worlds; Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy; Discipline 27-II; Angels and Demons at Play; Sleeping Beauty; The Nubians of Plutonia

Space is the Place - also check out the 1974 documentary of the same name  here:


Outer Spaceways Incorporated: