My friend and fellow musical explorer, Steve Buchannan, opened a can of worms in a discussion on this blog about the term “Free Jazz“. Yes, the term is misleading and has long outlived whatever limited usefulness it may have had.
Free Jazz was the name of an album by Ornette Coleman. Somehow, this album title became the de facto term used to describe all spirited improvisational music from the US – music that was often highly structured – hence not “free” and music that had nothing more to do with Jazz other than being performed on similar instruments as those sometimes used in Jazz bands of previous eras.
How did this happen?
I’ve spent most of my life as a so-called “Free Jazz musician”. One thing that i have discovered (and taken great delight in) is that this approach to music making is full of exhilarating and challenging structures, methodologies and processes. Far from Encyclopidia Britanica’s assertion:
“The main characteristic of free jazz is that there are no rules.”
So what do we replace the expression “Free Jazz” with?
Do we even need to identify the Music in this way at all?
What do you think?