The Battle of the Five Spot is an engaging look at a milestone in jazz history. In 1959, when the California saxophonist Ornette Coleman brought his
quartet to New York’s Five Spot Café,... More > the music spurred a stormy controversy, and a struggle between old and new styles of jazz that has never quite subsided.
David Lee explores the debate around Coleman’s innovation in terms of its relationships to social change and issues of power within arts communities, referring to such disparate sources as writer Norman Mailer (a Five Spot regular), composer Leonard Bernstein (who leaped to his feet at the end of one Coleman set and declared that “this is the greatest thing that has
ever happened in jazz”) and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The latter’s theory of artistic “fields,” in Lee’s accomplished prose, becomes part of a unique, lively and deeply postmodern look at how and why the soft-spoken Coleman’s
exciting new music changed the way jazz was played, listened to and talked about.< Less