The Shape of Jazz to Come

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The Shape of Jazz to Come
Studio album by Ornette Coleman
Released October 1959
Recorded May 22, 1959
Genre Avant-garde jazz
Free jazz
Length 37:59
Label Atlantic 1317
Producer Nesuhi Ertegun
Ornette Coleman chronology
Tomorrow Is the Question!
The Shape of Jazz to Come
Change of the Century

The Shape of Jazz to Come is the third album by jazz musician Ornette Coleman, released on Atlantic Records in 1959. It is his debut on the label, and his first album featuring his working quartet. The recording session for the album took place on May 22, 1959, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. Two outtakes from the session, "Monk and the Nun" and "Just for You," would later be released respectively on the 1970s compilations Twins and The Art of the Improvisers. In 2012, the Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry.[1]


The album contains the one Coleman composition to achieve jazz standard status, "Lonely Woman." Coleman's group did not contain chord-playing instruments. Each selection contains a brief melody, much like the tune of a typical jazz song, then several minutes of free improvisation, followed by a repetition of the main theme. While this resembles the conventional head-solo-head structure of bebop, it abandons the use of chord structures. The album was a breakthrough and helped to establish the free jazz movement. Later avant-garde jazz was often very different from this, but the work helped to lay the foundation upon which much subsequent avant-garde and free jazz would be built.

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Ornette Coleman.

Side one[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Lonely Woman"   4:59
2. "Eventually"   4:20
3. "Peace"   9:04

Side two[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Focus on Sanity"   6:50
2. "Congeniality"   6:41
3. "Chronology"   6:05



Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[2]
Penguin Guide to Jazz 4/4 stars
(Crown award)

In 2003, the album was ranked number 243 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album was identified by Chris Kelsey in his Allmusic essay "Free Jazz: A Subjective History" as one of the 20 Essential Free Jazz Albums.[4] The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded the album its "crown" accolade, in addition to a perfect four star rating.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Shape of Jazz to Come at AllMusic
  3. ^ a b Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0. 
  4. ^ Kelsey, C. Free Jazz: A Subjective History accessed August 25, 2011