Post image for Vinyl Review: Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (ORG Music, 180g, 45RPM)

Vinyl Review: Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (ORG Music, 180g, 45RPM)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sound: 9.8
Pressing: 3.5
Value: 8.5

ORG Music reissue released in 2013. 180g vinyl, 45RPM, 2LP. Catalog Number: ORGM-1081. Mastered by Bernie Grundman. Pressed by Pallas in Germany. UPC: 711574707218. MSRP: $49. Buy on


Much has been said about this, Ornette Coleman’s shot across the bow of jazz as it was known in 1959 — a year that also saw Miles Davis release his modal masterwork Kind of Blue, and (six months later) John Coltrane blaze his own trail with Giant Steps. The six tracks presented on this release, recorded by the quartet — Ornette Coleman (alto sax), Donald Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums) — are essential in every way, and only get better with age.

But our reviews are about sound quality and value, so stop reading now if you want to learn about the music on this disc. In fact, don’t buy this disc until you sample the music on your streaming service of choice. To the unprepared, it may shock and confuse — in the best of ways, of course.

Sound: 9.8

In a word, unreal. This is unreal fidelity coming off what amounts to two slabs of black plastic. Jaw-dropping and effortless dynamics, exploding from the horns and drumset at every turn. Bass is clear, consistent and tuneful. Big, fat, squeeky, squawky, piercing, lovely tone abounds. The physicality of the sound captured and the sense of presence and space is intoxicating.

This is simply one of the best small scale jazz records I’ve heard in my life. The original recording was obviously done with the highest of standards, and the tapes must be in superb shape. Plus, Bernie Grundman is an exceptional mastering engineer and the 45RPM double-LP is a superior format.

But I think I know the real reason this record stands out so dramatically compared to other quartet records from the period: There’s no piano. So many times, the piano is the instrument that sounds wrong (to put it politely), and here it is absent. And I don’t miss it. I suppose the same advantage can be had with small scale jazz records featuring a vibraphone instead of piano. Vibes are way easier to believably reproduce. But I’m just now getting familiar with some of those records (Jackie McLean’s Destination… Out! comes to mind). So much to explore.

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/Packaging: 3.5

The score above isn’t a typo. This record came to me in a confounding and abysmal state. It was scuffed, it was warped, it had multiple areas of non-fill. ORG Music was stunned and immediately sent me a replacement copy. The replacement was indeed better, but it too had some scuffing. Pallas is a premier pressing facility with a great reputation. My copies of ORG Music’s Pallas-pressed John Coltrane My Favorite Things and Freddie Hubbard Red Clay are as pristine and perfect as any records can be. Odd, to say the least. The gatefold jackets on my copies are very nice though (despite what Michael Fremer experienced with his).

Value: 8.5

Assuming you can get a good copy, and there is no reason to think you can’t given any decent return policy, the value is significant. For about $50, which isn’t cheap by any means, you get the best sounding version of this record likely ever made (I assume it sounds better than an original but can’t be sure). For reference, when I compared the $25-ish Grundman-mastered 180g 33RPM Rhino version of My Favorite Things to the $50-ish 45RPM ORG Music version, it was not even close — the 45RPM trounced the 33RPM in every regard. Life is short. Get the 45RPM.

ORG Music reissue LP on

Spanky Wanky May 5, 2018 at 10:21 pm

Vinyl is FAKE NEWS!