‘Fire Music’ Review: An Impassioned Case for Free Jazz

One default response to the musical type known as “free jazz” — Ornette Coleman’s phrase for this improvised, experimental model of jazz — has lengthy been that it’s “not music.” This concise however cogent documentary directed by Tom Surgal is full of exhilarating sounds, transferring reminiscences and stimulating arguments that it isn’t simply music, however very important music.

Gary Giddins, a critic who’s equally at dwelling explicating Bing Crosby as Cecil Taylor, factors out on the movie’s starting that somebody taking part in the blues on a porch could make their phrases 12 bars or 14 bars or no matter at will. In group taking part in, sure agreements should be met.

One foundation of free jazz is to strategy ensemble taking part in with out standard agreements. Hence, Coleman’s virtually leaderless double quartet strategy on the 1961 “Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation” album. Much consideration can also be given right here to Coleman’s break with bebop in insisting one may improvise with out chords. His taking part in sounded out of tune to conventional jazz musicians not but conversant with microtones.

This sounds slightly dry, however the film is something however. Among different highlights are extremely well-curated archival footage and modern interviews that enable the viewer to briefly commune with some lovely souls, together with Coleman, Sam Rivers, John Coltrane, Rashied Ali, Don Cherry, Carla Bley. “Whatever he did was the right thing to do,” Bley, now 85, says of Cherry, who died in 1995.

Most of those gamers are Black, and their improvements within the ’60s had hassle gaining traction within the United States. So they flocked to Paris, and the film is scrupulous in chronicling how the European motion “free improvisation” grew into one thing allied with, however distinct from, what the U.S. founders created.

As a fan of improvisational music myself, the 88 minutes of this film constituted a too-short heaven on earth. I’d binge on an expanded sequence, actually.

Fire Music
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters.