50 Years and Counting

Posted by: Dave Douglas on April 21, 2009 @ 6:59 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

My sister Susan is concerned that I have not been blogging lately, so she forwarded this from Martin Johnson in the Wall Street Journal. And I admit it — I’ve been working hard to get next month’s new release finished. You subscribers already know what I’m talking about….

Thanks for forwarding, Sis!

interesting article about the impact coleman’s album and date at five spot.


“The Shape of Jazz to Come” was released in October 1959 and immediately created a firestorm in the jazz community. Miles Davis told Joe Goldberg, in his 1983 book “Jazz Masters of the ’50s” (Da Capo), “Just listen to what he writes and how he plays. The man is all screwed up inside.” Bassist Charles Mingus told Downbeat in 1960: “It’s like organized disorganization or playing wrong right. It gets to you emotionally like a drummer.”

Mr. Coleman and his bandmates moved to New York, and in November 1959 they made their debut at the Five Spot, one of Gotham’s most renowned jazz clubs. The intensity of the response in the New York jazz world made the gig one of the most famous in jazz history.


does this kind of thing happen today?  does anyone create such intense response?  like the Rite of Spring thing?

Also, does Coleman’s continued brilliance shock any less than it did in 1959?


  1. I’m reminded of the famed Hendrix “Symphony” concert–supposedly this Spanish Castle Magic is his best performance ever. I recently heard a bootleg of it on Youtube — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_egTdGnar0 .

    So much of these milestone gigs are shrouded in mystery since really no real recordings exist (does a Ornette ’59 5-Spot gig exist somewhere?). Like the Rite of Spring. The inability to hear or see it second hand really adds to the mystique. And everyone with pocket cameras shooting vids, it’s hard to imagine that something like this wouldn’t be captured now-a-days. It’s harder to say, “You had to be there.” Maybe that is why there are less mystical stories of shows in the present.

    Still, would love to see or hear about a riotous response to a performance like Rite of Spring. Music will always have the power to move people to the brink. And I’m positive it’s continued to do so today… even if we’re not fist-fighting in the aisles.

    Comment by Jim Tuerk — April 21, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  2. Thanks Jim for posting this Hendrix link. Being a huge Hendrix freak I had heard about that version of Spanish Castle Magic but never actually heard a recording. Definitely an inspired performance and much different than Jimi inserting Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love or Outside Woman Blues which he often did on SCM. Also interesting to hear what he does in the solo section of this version in the context of the date: 5/18/69. Many of the elements of the improv here showed up a few months later at Woodstock’s post Purple Haze solo guitar interlude. Hendrix even plays the octaves theme to Villanova Junction here that he later did at Woodstock (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWYgP7rbRa0 or the 1970 Maui/Flying V version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYrrVQrCl3o). You can tell he was exploring some new territory and trying to figure out how to integrate the new ideas into the standard concert repertoire. Super bad. I’m gonna look for a recording of that whole 5/18/69 show. Thanks again!

    Comment by Bart — April 23, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  3. If you find that show and it’s a legal bootleg, please let me know. I’d love to hear it.

    I was poking around awhile back and found the non-fake jam sessions Hendrix did with McLaughlin. Pretty intense stuff, and interesting to hear McLaughlin’s relatively clean tone almost hiding behind Hendrix’s beefed-up wailing. Two of the greatest. Wish the world could have had the Miles/Hendrix collaboration everyone always talks about.

    Comment by Jim Tuerk — April 23, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

  4. This got tangential pretty fast… Nice.
    Just a couple quick thoughts related to the original post:

    I think it’s mainly for economic reasons that we don’t see the classic succes de scandal any more. (That said, I also acknowledge that the incidents we know from history may or may not be trumped up, their stories getting juicier with each retelling…). But basically the large institutional presenters have too much at stake to risk alienating their audiences. And there’s no incentive to do so – there are plenty of classic works that deserve to be heard and also please a subscription audience. There’s no real room for the sound of surprise when so many investors and donors have sunk so much money into a work.

    Shockingly innovative work is still being created. It’s mostly in front of smaller audiences, many of whom are more receptive to being challenged by art.

    Maybe Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” would be the 21st century equivalent in terms of scandalous reception. Here’s a truly surprising event that occurred at an otherwise meticulously planned event. People were “up in arms” about what happened on that stage. They were not getting the artistic experience they expected, and the performance was willfully “wrong.”

    Perhaps compared to The Rite of Spring, the Jackson/Timberlake act may not have the same long term artistic resonance… History will have to be the judge of that.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — April 28, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  5. Too bad the Super Bowl half-time show has kind of replaced the symphony as a place where controversy starts.

    Comment by Jim Tuerk — April 29, 2009 @ 7:58 am

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