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Avant-Garde


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Audio CD, February 22, 1990
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 22, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Atlantic Mod Afw
  • ASIN: B000002JJU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,405 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Cherryco
2. Focus On Sanity
3. The Blessing
4. The Invisible
5. Bemsha Swing

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on November 2, 2000
Format: Audio CD
While the lineup is intriguing -- joining Trane with musicians associated with Ornette Coleman (Percy Heath also makes an appearance) -- and some of the music compelling, "The Avant-Garde" is, for me, the least successful release in the saxophonist's Atlantic discography. In fact, it's a rare example -- one of the few I can think of -- of a session that might have been strengthened had another saxophonist taken his place.
That's not to say that "The Avant-Garde" is anywhere near being a bad album. On "Focus on Sanity," for example, Coltrane's tenor finds a groove with the bent lyricism of Cherry's horn and Ed Blackwell's remarkable juggling rhythms. Monk's "Bemsha Swing" is another highlight: a truly fresh treatment of one of the pianist's infrequently recorded tunes.
But the recording, to these ears anyway, often exhibits a strained quality, most of which comes from Trane trying to adapt his sound to the jagged, angular rhythms that Cherry and company were more comfortable with from playing with Coleman. "The Blessing," for example, Coltrane's first recorded effort on soprano, suffers badly in comparison with the later "My Favorite Things" and "Ole Coltrane," to name two examples. On "The Blessing" he sounds, for one of the few times in his post-1958 career, uncertain. The result lacks the lyricism of "My Favorite Things" or the fury of "Ole." He seems to be fighting the tune rather than finding its contours, as Cherry does.
An interesting comparison with this release is "Bags and Trane," recorded the same year, for the same label.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Funkmeister G on January 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Here we have perhaps the most respected saxophonist ever [there even exists a Church of Saint John Coltrane for his deeply spiritual liner notes to A Love Supreme] w/ all the other members of the most controversial & therefore underrated Ornette Coleman Quartet, Ed Blackwell on drums, Charlie Haden on bass [replaced by the slightly more starightforward Percy Heath of the Modern Jazz Quartet on tracks 2, 4 & 5], & trumpeter Don Cherry as co-leader. This is brilliant music that for some unexplained reason didn't get released in 1960 when it was recorded but lay in the vaults until 1966, just in time that Coltrane could see it out when he was alive. It opens w/ Don Cherry's compositon Cherryco, the main theme of which very much resembles a tune the OCQ were doing @ the time called Revolving Doors which I'm very fond of, & here it is a fair bit less frantic but certainly excellent still, obvious taken off in different directions [it's a good couple of minutes longer too], in the original liner notes it explains "Cherryco is one of Don's favourite tunes - he played it all through his recent sabbatical of Europe & North Africa, & had considerable success w/ it." The bulk of the album is taken up w/ 3 Ornette tunes, he himself not being present perhaps to give more space to John to do his thing. The 1st of these is Focus On Sanity [from the Shape of Jazz to Come] & it's a 12 minute version, taken further & given as much space as it needs, it fades out as if it could have gone on a lot longer. The Blessing is a charming tune, coming from Something Else!!!, Ornette's debut album from 1958, as does The Invisible which follows it, & the Blessing is apparently the 1st recording of JC on soprano sax, normally he was on tenor.Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By fluffy, the human being. on March 31, 2007
Format: Audio CD
i have a love/hate relationship with the whole genre of avant-garde jazz. if you happen to dislike the genre yourself, don't be put off by the title of this album. this is from 1960, before things became too heavily tilted towards dissonance, too offensive to the ears. all of the music on this album is quite accessible to the average jazz fan, and it's all excellent. don cherry sounds almost conventional here (unlike on the other recordings that i have heard him play on), and coltrane's playing is inventive and gorgeous, as usual. this was a hole in my coltrane collection that i just filled. and i am very glad that i did. wonderful jazz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. BURGESON on December 16, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
"The Avant-Garde" was recorded in 1960, but it shockingly, wasn't in the record stores until six years later -- after the assassination of JFK and the British Rock Invasion. Maybe this is why "The Avant-Garde" never quite hit its stride, even though it was -- and still is -- way ahead of its time. The avant garde movement in jazz is arguably the pinnacle of the art form, and this record belongs at or near the summit. It features several of Ornette Coleman's sidemen: trumpeter Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell on the skins, and bass players Charlie Haden and Percy Heath. So, although OC doesn't perform, he casts a long shadow over it. Having said that, "The Avant-Garde" isn't for everyone. Even lovers of Giant Steps and "My Favorite Things" might find this material too advanced and "out there" for their ears.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G B on January 2, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This album has one of the most misleading titles in jazz history. By the time it was released in 1966, the music must have sounded quaintly conservative - jazz's avant-garde moved far, far beyond the 5 tunes on this recording. John Coltrane was recording challenging albums like Meditations and Live at the Village Vanguard Again while Don Cherry's collaborations with Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders were also stretching listeners' ears. The 3 Ornette Coleman compositions are from 1958-59, adventurous but with still-obvious bebop roots.

This album is probably one of the weakest albums Coltrane recorded under his own name, and definitely my least favorite from the Atlantic years. It's obviously of historic interest - the only time Coltrane ever recorded Ornette Coleman's music, and the first official recording of him with soprano sax. Coltrane actually took lessons from Ornette, but their musical approaches were quite different and it makes Coltrane sound a little like a fish out of water. That great groove he had with McCoy and Elvin (or prior, with his companions from Miles Davis's band) never locks in here, largely because Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell didn't do that kind of thing. That's not a diss against Haden and Blackwell - both play GREAT here. Percy Heath offers a more conservative spin when he subs for Haden, but he knew how to play this music and fits in quite well. Don Cherry is also very good - we get what I think is his first recorded composition, "Cherryco" - though I think you'd have to wait until the mid-60s to really get a sense of what he was capable of as a bandleader (rather than Ornette sidekick).

Overall, I'd put this pretty low on the list of "Coltrane to get" - I'd pick up most of the classic Impulse, Atlantic, Prestige and Blue Note recordings before venturing here. I'd also put this fairly low on the list for Cherry or Coleman fans. But very few fans of those musicians would hear this album and not enjoy it.
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