Friday, October 22, 2010

Men of Style: The Ornette Coleman Quartet

Let's be clear, it's the music that's important. Ornette Coleman has influenced generations of musicians with his powerfully liberated solos, and his mid-century work in particular pushed jazz - and popular music generally - to ever more avant-garde extremes. Mike Davis, in his Los Angeles history City of Quartz, aptly described Coleman as a "cultural guerrilla." So, yes, I encourage you to seek out The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) and Change of the Century (1960) for the revolutionary aural content of the recordings themselves. But, I also want you to look at the album covers. I can't think of a more illustrative document of men dressed "correctly" than the album cover of the Coleman Quartet's This is Our Music (1961). Coleman, drummer Ed Blackwell, trumpeter Don Cherry, and bassist Charlie Haden are elegantly dressed in trim dark suits, slim ties, and narrow collars. Their appearance makes it plain that these gentlemen mean business, even if you've yet to hear a note of their music.

Men who set the standard: