Ten Free Jazz Albums to Hear Before You Die

Categories: Jazz

7. Bill Dixon
Son of Sisyphus
Bill Dixon, the Massachusetts born multi-instrumentalist, was one of the most articulate early free jazz musicians when it came to integrating classical music into the jazz form. While much of the "genre" is considered loud and aggressive, Dixon explored space and silence. The new sounds he created on trumpet, working with artists like Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley, can be heard today in younger voices like Nate Wooley and Rob Mazurek. Recorded in 1988 with a quartet that included the bassist Mario Pavone, Son of Sisyphus is one of his best albums as leader. (Also, see Dixon's Tapestries for Small Orchestra, released in 2009, the year before he died.)

6. Manfred Schoof
European Echoes
Don't forget the Europeans. Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun is an essential recording, but a similar lineup appears on this lesser known date led by the German saxophonist Manfred Schoof: bassists Buschi Niebergall and Peter Kowald, drummer Han Bennink, saxophonist Evan Parker, and pianist Fred van Hove. Sven-Ake Johansson and ICP co-founder Willem Breuker from Machine Gun are missing, but on European Echoes, in exchange, we scoop up guitarist Derek Bailey and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, among others. Fair trade. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence.

5. The Giuseppi Logan Quartet
The Giuseppi Logan Quartet
Born in Philadelphia, Giuseppi Logan reloacted to New York City in the early 1960s and worked with Bill Dixon, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. He recorded two excellent albums for ESP, including this quartet date on reeds with pianist Don Pullen, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Milford Graves, and then he disappeared for 40-plus years. Many thought he was dead, but he resurfaced in 2008, and has since recorded two impressive albums. This 1964 debut, though, remains his best.

4. The Roscoe Mitchell Sextet
Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell played with Albert Ayler in a band while stationed in Germany with the United States Army. In the mid-60s, upon returning to the United States, he helped create the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and the corresponding Art Ensemble of Chicago. Playing alongside fellow AACM members Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, Maurice McIntyre, Lester Lashley and Alvin Fielder, Sound is one of Mitchell's finest early moments. The song above is a tribute to Ornette Coleman.

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Interesting list, very thoughtful, but I'd just like to clarify that "free jazz" is literally free:  open improvisation with no written music.  At least half of the records you mentioned are composed works with elements of improvisation.  And i know some of the artists you mentioned, like Braxton and Dixon, hate having their music called "free jazz".  They are composers and want to be considered as such.  "Avant-Garde Jazz" would be a more appropriate and inclusive term. 


haters gonna hate.... thanks for giving this music a shout out... these 10 records and countless others should be celebrated whenever possible...



No Interstellar Space by John Coltrane?  Touchin on Trane-Charles Gayle/William Parker/Rashied Ali? And not even Albert Ayler-Spiritual Unity????  

I have grave doubts about this piece.


It's just really strange to put such great names on the bottom of the chart and these newer, mediocre musicians on top of them.


For the record, the writer is NOT the musician Elliott Sharp.


It should be illegal to write bs like this. Proof if proof was needed that Elliot sharp is not just a mediocre musician but also a terrible writer.

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