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|Stylistic origins||Jazz, bebop, free jazz, modernism, avant-garde, 20th century classical music|
|Cultural origins||Mid-1950s United States|
|Typical instruments||Drums, saxophone, trumpet, piano, double bass|
|Derivative forms||Noise rock, math rock|
Avant-garde jazz (also known as avant-jazz) is a style of music and improvisation that combines avant-garde art music and composition with jazz. Avant-jazz often sounds very similar to free jazz, but differs in that, despite its distinct departure from traditional harmony, it has a predetermined structure over which improvisation may take place. This structure may be composed note for note in advance, partially or even completely.
The origins of avant-garde jazz are in the innovations of the immediate stylistic successors of Charlie Parker. Based in New York City, musicians such as Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane introduced modal improvisation and experimented with atonality and dissonance. Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman became controversial jazz innovators.
In Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians began pursuing their own variety of avant-garde jazz. The AACM musicians (Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Hamid Drake, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago) tended towards eclecticism.
The 1970s saw the development of jazz fusion. It is questionable whether this can be considered a form of avant-garde jazz, though Miles Davis's recordings of this period, in particular, appear quite innovative and take inspiration from serialism and aleatoric music, just as the AACM did. By the early-to-mid-1970s, many free jazz icons, such as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Ornette Coleman were experimenting with rock and funk. Coleman would eventually develop the free funk style, which would be further explored by the M-Base musicians in the 1980s.
The 1980s saw the pre-eminence of Wynton Marsalis and his classicist approach, and a resulting diminution of the visibility of the avant-garde. However, as avant-garde jazz was a prime influence on no wave, New York City became the center of a new crop of aggressive improvisors: John Zorn, Borbetomagus, the Lounge Lizards, James Chance, James Blood Ulmer, Sonny Sharrock, Marc Ribot, Diamanda Galás, Bill Laswell (who also worked on Herbie Hancock's funk and electro recordings) and Bill Frisell (who had also recorded with the ECM musicians) among them. This development is referred to as punk jazz.
John Zorn, in particular, became an iconic figure in the "downtown" music scene, performing in free jazz, free improvisation, and a variety of rock and extreme music styles. Many of these musicians actually resided in Brooklyn; Tim Berne is a prominent representative.
The 1990s saw a return in visibility to the Chicago jazz scene, including players with links to the AACM. Most prominent are David Boykin, Aaron Getsug, Nicole Mitchell and Karl E. H. Seigfried - all of whom came up through Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge. Other players include Ken Vandermark, Jeff Parker, and Kevin Drumm; these musicians had connections to the post-rock or noise rock scenes.
Likewise, there was an increase in vitality in the remnants of the loft jazz scene in New York, centered around David S. Ware. Matthew Shipp, Susie Ibarra, and William Parker practised a more traditional variety of avant-garde jazz than the punk jazz-inflected downtown musicians, though some collaboration did occur between the two camps. Matthew Shipp eventually collaborated with illbient and alternative hip hop musicians (DJ Spooky, Anti-Pop Consortium, El-P), and moved towards a distinctive brand of nu jazz comparable to that of Craig Taborn. Today he is reinventing the way one experiences his work with collaborations with jazz avant-garde mix media artist Barbara Januszkiewicz.
Notable avant-jazz musicians
- George Adams
- The Bad Plus
- Django Bates
- Han Bennink
- Ed Blackwell
- Ernest Dawkins
- Scott Fields
- Mike Garson
- Charles Gayle
- Globe Unity Orchestra
- Joe Harriott
- Roy Haynes
- Theo Jörgensmann
- Jeanne Lee
- Joe McPhee
- Medeski, Martin, & Wood
- Misha Mengelberg
- Kenny Millions
- Don Pullen
- Sam Rivers
- Matthew Shipp
- Arto Tunçboyacıyan
- Alexander von Schlippenbach
- John Zorn
Berendt, Joachim E. (1992). The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond. Revised by Günther Huesmann, translated by H. and B. Bredigkeit with Dan Morgenstern. Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books. ISBN 1-55652-098-0
- Amiri Baraka, "Where's the Music Going and Why?", The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues. New York: William Morrow, 1987. p. 177-180.