The Adventure (1955-1960)

black and white photo of a couple dancing to early jazz

Episode #109 / Length: 1 hour, Length: 57 minutes

As rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll erode jazz' audience still further, the music nonetheless enjoys a time of tremendous creativity. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins makes his mark on the scene, Duke Ellington reemerges as a star after a triumphant performance at the Newport Jazz Festival and Miles Davis makes several now-legendary albums. Young trumpeter Clifford Brown achieves great artistry, but his life is cut short in a car accident. Vocalist Sarah Vaughan forever sets a standard for jazz singing. Amidst the school integration crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas, Louis Armstrong risks his career by speaking out forcefully against segregation. Drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and other "hard bop" musicians play a soulful brand of jazz in an attempt to bring the music back to the black audience it has lost to R&B. In 1957, Billie Holiday reunites with Lester Young on a live television program, "The Sound of Jazz"; two years later, both Holiday and Young are dead. John Coltrane, after playing on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album, forms his own quartet, scores a hit with his version of the show tune "My Favorite Things" and creates some of the most intense music in jazz history. The episode concludes with the arrival on the scene of the free-jazz pioneer, Ornette Coleman, whose music challenges all of the conventions of jazz, signals the arrival of the avant garde and provokes a debate about the definition of jazz that continues to this day.

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