Free Jazz

Free jazz is a type of modern music that does not follow the usual rules of tonal organization, bluesy chord progressions, and swing rhythms.

The focus is on spontaneous group improvisation. The range of expressive tools allows for the sensuality and intellect of free jazz music.

The free jazz style was established by pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the second half of the 1950s. It was also influenced by San Ra, Archie Shepp, Arthur Doyle, Barton Green and the late John Coltrane.

Free jazz is considered inventive and adventurous. However, some music theorists see it as an attempt to reconnect with the ethnic and religious foundations of traditional jazz.

In English, free jazz is referred to as “abstract,” “new phenomenon,” and “avant-garde,” although the latter is a much broader term that differs from free jazz in its compositional ideas. The term “free jazz” was coined by Ornette Coleman in 1960 for his album of the same name.

Free Jazz Definitions

The vast majority of contemporary jazz forms use the performer’s voice as the central element. Classical jazz, on the other hand, is based on compositional intent.

E. Barban, a scholar of jazz forms, argues that any performance or artistic expression of music meets the criterion of a work of art. In this case, skill helps to transform the personality of the musician into a set of symbols that can be studied as works of art.

Similar to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, Barban believes that exaltation, spontaneity, affect, and mental preoccupation are the most important artistic elements of free jazz.


At the time, a radical mass empowerment of black artists was taking place. They were coming into their own, and their music was breaking away from tonal structures, harmony, and the European way of doing things.

Free jazz has never tried to hide its ideological foundation, its social protest, or its radical nature. Because of this, it is very difficult to develop and organize a single cultural philosophy for free jazz.

Free jazz is clearly centered on black self-awareness and authenticity, yet the style is susceptible to symbiotic fusion with other cultures, often those with which it is in conflict. These crossings may reflect a desire to assimilate the spiritual and aesthetic characteristics of another ethnicity.

Thus, Indian culture, with its rich rhythms and Buddhist ideals, attracted free jazz. And Arabic motifs found their way in, as many artists became Muslims.

Religion in general became a source of inspiration for free jazz musicians, and you can hear it in the music and see it in the song titles, album names, and CD artwork.

Virtually all distinctions between noise and melodic sound are eliminated in free jazz. Its performers believe that almost any sound can be included in the composition, even if it seems to have nothing to do with it.

You just have to be creative in how you digest it and incorporate it into your improvisation. Modern academic avant-gardists use a similar strategy, which makes these two approaches comparable.