Heavy Vanguard: Ornette Coleman // Free Jazz [20th Episode!]

So, twenty episodes, and we’re still kicking…I guess that’s something to be proud of! Anyway, when we come to special numbers of episodes, Scott and I like to pick an album that’s had a huge effect on us and talk about it without worrying about the thirty-minute timer. For our tenth episode we covered Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and we again dive into jazz territory with Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz.

Starter Kit: Free Jazz

Regardless of one’s musical background, free jazz is one of those genres that can be extremely confusing and often border on nonsensical and sonically belligerent. There are even fans of jazz who still can’t get into the likes of the late works of John Coltrane or anything made by Pharaoh Sanders, preferring instead to listen to other, less insane iterations of the genre. While we believe that music’s value is something strictly decided by the listener, we’ve also found that, despite the difficulty of the genre, free jazz is incredibly rewarding. There’s something undeniably special about musicians that can improvise; if music is the expression of the soul, then free jazz is the direct output of an unrestrained musical voice. While it can sound like noise, it’s in fact a huge show of musicianship, as the artist in question must compress everything they know about music theory into one single point and, in a sense, abandon the strictures it causes for what they feel. In this way, we think free jazz can be one of the most magical and spiritually uplifting genres of music out there, and for those interested in exploring the genre further, the following albums are great introductions to the most liberated plane of jazz.

Heavy Vanguard: The Peter Brötzmann Octet // Machine Gun

We’ve often extolled the stylings of free jazz pioneers like John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Ornette Coleman—they’ve brought such chaos and madness into jazz and have put out some incredible albums in their day. However, we often forget that there’s an entire scene in Europe as well practicing free jazz and free improvisation. Peter…

The Final Years: A Retrospective Of Miles Davis’s Last Albums (Part 1)

In 1975, Miles Davis began life anew as a recluse, a hermit in the middle of Manhattan. Supported by a healthy retainer by Columbia Records and fueled by cocaine, Davis spent most of the next six years in his Upper West Side apartment, composing and practicing rarely, but mostly neglecting his musical gifts. (Whatever else went on during this “retirement” is perhaps best left untouched.) However, by 1980, Davis was back in the studio recording what would become 1981’s The Man With The Horn—his comeback record, and an album that would arguably set the standard for this new wave of his music until his untimely death nine years later.

Best Of: Live Albums

There’s nothing quite like a metal show. The palpitating thrum of bass, explosive blasts of percussion, the crackling sea of people united by music — it’s beautiful, life-affirming, and brutal. Although live recordings will inevitably fail to stack up to the real thing, they allow us to experience singular moments…

What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To – 2/3/17

For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.

Hey! Listen to Kaoru Abe!

We at Heavy Blog love our jazz. Hell, we have an entire column dedicated to it. Most of that love, however, leans into more fusion and nu-jazz groups (see: BADBADNOTGOOD, GoGo Penguin, or Nick Cusworth’s newly-found romance with VIRTA).  It isn’t to say that we don’t cover avant-garde or free…

Heavy Buys – November/Black Friday Vinyl

Welcome back to Heavy Buys! We launched this feature a couple months ago to share some recent physical music purchases we’ve made, whether it’s a small-time purchase to round out one’s collection, or a debt-inducing splurge. Vinyl, CDs, and even cassettes are all possible topics here. As long as its physical media, it’s fair game. While Jimmy’s inaugural installment covered his autographed copy of John Zorn’s Hemophiliac, I’m starting a monthly column covering all of the vinyl I’ve purchased in the past 30 days (give or take). This stack of records comes from several hours spent in four separate stores, including trips during a weekend visit with friends in Maine, my go-to hometown shop in New Hampshire, and a Black Friday binge while down in Connecticut with my girlfriend for Thanksgiving with her family. After you’ve gone through all of my picks, be sure to comment with any of your own finds!

Musical Chess: “Cobra” and John Zorn’s Game Pieces

While we will never come up with a universally accepted description of what separates art from the rest of reality, we can make some easy guesses about it—namely, that art, in one way or another, derives its meaning and beauty from structure. The quadrivium—one of the oldest examples of pedagogy in Western thought—includes music as one of its pillars because of art’s importance and reliance on these aforementioned elements; after all music is quite literally math in motion. Any sound, from the buzz of a crowd to the slap of a bass guitar to the clinks and clangs of machinery, can be said to have a certain pitch and be a certain length of time, and can therefore be considered to be privy to certain rules, even if we have made up said rules. But, as with any rule or law, it cannot exist without offenders to truly define it. A society without murder wouldn’t need (nor could even comprehend) a law barring its use. (If you want to get simpler, it’s yin and yang—one part cannot exist without the other.) This, however, is where improvisation comes into the conversation of music, as it completes the circle. The serpent is now metaphorically biting its own tail.