Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman

The Shape of Jazz to Come is the highly influential third album by Ornette Coleman and was issued on the Atlantic record label – his first record for the label - in 1959. 

The album has been categorised as either avant-garde jazz or free jazz – a term Coleman coined from the title of one of his albums - and has been named by The Guardian as one of their 50 great moments in jazz. It has also been listed as one of Rolling Stones 500 greatest albums of all time and in 2012 the Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry. 

Interestingly, Coleman’s early sound was due in part to his use of a replacement Grafton plastic saxophone – pictured on the cover of the record - bought in 1954 because at that time he couldn’t afford a metal one when his first tenor was broken (Litweiler, 1992). 

Other notable Grafton saxophone players included the legendary Charlie Parker, John Dankworth and even a young David Bowie (bought by his father as long as he paid him back from a part-time job). 

The Grafton saxophone was an injection moulded, cream coloured acrylic plastic alto saxophone with metal keys and was manufactured by between 1950 and 1967. Today these items are highly valued by collectors and you can view one in the MoDiP collection here.

Andrew Pulman, Guest Blogger.

Further reading:

Litweiler, J., 1992. Ornette Coleman: A harmolodic life. William Morrow & Co.

Our Museum Collections Officer's previous blog post about the Grafton alto saxophone:

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