Like many of Ornette Coleman's Atlantic sides, The Art of the Improvisers was recorded in numerous sessions from 1959-1961 and assembled for the purpose of creating a cohesive recorded statement.
Essentially, the band is that quartet with two very notable exceptions: The last tracks on each side feature a different bass player.
These last two sessions were recorded early in 1961, in January and March respectively.
As an album, The Art of the Improvisers is usually undervalued when placed next to This Is Our Music or The Shape of Jazz to Come.
This is a mistake in that some of Coleman's most deeply lyrical harmonic structures reside here in tracks such as "Just for You," with literally stunning intervallic interplay between him and Cherry from the middle to the end.
The track also messes with standard blues form and comes up in a modal way without seemingly intending to.
"The Alchemy of Scott La Faro" must have pissed off the hard boppers like nothing else.
Coleman and Cherry for the most part clamor around a B flat-C sharp major figure and run circles around each other in muscular fashion as LaFaro goes pizzicato to head with Coleman in the middle, turning the saxophonist's phrases into rhythmic structures which Blackwell accents as if cued.
But he's not; this is invented on the spot.
Coleman's deep lyricism shines through despite the tempo, and the entire thing goes out in a blaze of light.
"The Legend of Bebop" is a jazz history lesson with the band working out on the front line, quoting from Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, moving through some Ellingtonian themes, and slipping around the corner to a slow, blued-out bebop before taking off in consonant solos and counterpoint.
This is basically one of Coleman's most uptempo records for Atlantic, but also one of his most soulful.
It deserves serious re-evaluation.