Trying to Understand Free Jazz through Film

Supposedly informing readers about director Tom Surgal’s documentary Fire Music, which deals with the origins and spread of Free Jazz, the Guardian’s Jim Farber takes up more space listing the music’s negative reception than its wide appeal. While he does touch on some of the music’s initial major figures – alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, tenor saxophonists Albert Ayler and John Coltrane and pianists Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor – he appears to relate all the revolutionary sounds to the 1960s and 1970s or as to how the music influenced Rock musicians. Name checking pop stars like Roger McGuinn and Paul McCartney and younger Rock musicians such as Thurston Moore who were supposedly influenced by Free Music, Farber seems ignorant of the many other bands that followed Free Jazz’s development. Furthermore, except for throwaway mentions of pianist Keith Tippett and the AMM group with guitarist Keith Rowe and drummer Eddie Prévost, the wide influence Free Jazz subsequently had on European improvising musicians isn’t noted at all. Maybe the best idea is just to see the film.